“Law & Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay believes there’s a key reason why the show has remained so wildly popular over the last 20 years.
It’s not just the addictive plot twists and relatable character arcs that draw people in. It’s also the deeper messages “Law & Order: SVU” conveys about sexual assault trauma and believing victims, according to Hargitay. She talked to Parade back in 2019 about the show’s impact and connection to real-life situations.
“SVU resonates because it’s a path to healing and a path to survivorship. Each week, Olivia Benson and the team depict an environment of compassion, sympathy, and justice, providing hope to those who experience shame and isolation caused by sexual violence,” Hargitay said. “The conversations that the show inspires have brought a greater awareness and understanding of the issues. And every disclosure is a chance to show that a victim is to be believed.”
For more than two decades, Hargitay has played Olivia Benson on the NBC crime drama. The detective-turned-captain is well known for being empathetic and understanding of the victims she talks to. Hargitay told Parade how her “Law & Order” character inspired actual victims of sexual assault to reach out to her via fanmail and open up about their experiences.
“I am not a therapist and I didn’t know how to respond,” she said. “I wanted them to have a safe space.”
So, Hargitay decided to open up the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to provide that space for sexual assault, domestic abuse, and child abuse survivors. The “Law & Order: SVU” star also co-produced a 2017 documentary called “I am Evidence.” In the film, Hargitay discussed the importance of examining untested rape kits, which could provide crucial evidence for victims who want to identify their attacker.
Season 23 of ‘Law & Order: SVU’ is Right Around the Corner
Fans can catch the next season of NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. ET. With almost 500 episodes to date, the show has now become the longest-running primetime live-action TV series ever.
NBC renewed the show for at least one more season, to premiere next year in 2022. While we know that Hargitay will be back for the upcoming Season 23, it’s unclear how far her character will go. The “Law & Order: SVU” star keeps a yearly contract with the network, likely so she can negotiate a better salary from season to season.
Hargitay debated leaving in the past, but something about the story always drew her back. She told “The Hollywood Reporter” that the show’s continued impact on sexual assault victims played a big role.
“When I walk down the street and people say, ‘I knew what to do because of watching your show– I knew not to shower. I reported immediately. I took myself to the hospital instead of saying forget it, forget this ever happened,'” Hargitay said. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”