'Law and Order: SVU' Inspires Mariska Hargitay to Help Real-Life Rape Victims
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The actress thanks her late father Mickey Hargitay to thank for helping her get through the difficult experience of dealing with rape victims.

AceShowbiz - Mariska Hargitay's role on top TV police drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has inspired her to pursue justice for rape victims. The actress has played Lieutenant Olivia Benson on the show for 19 years and she reveals difficult story lines about sexual abuse inspired her to get involved with helping rape victims.

"After I started filming the first season in 1999, I was invited to a dinner for Mt. Sinai Hospital's Sexual Assault Violence Intervention programme to honor (show creator) Dick Wolf," she tells InStyle magazine. "That was the first time I heard the sexual violence statistics that to this day rock me back on my heels..."

The actress subsequently decided to become a rape crisis counsellor and launch the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004. The foundation "helps survivors of sexual assault heal and reclaim their lives," and Hargitay explains she is now focusing on clearing the rape kit backlog, which could help law enforcement agencies solve longstanding sexual assault crimes.

"It is still one of the most shocking demonstrations of how these crimes - and women - have been regarded in this country," she says. "We're working toward passing comprehensive legislation in all 50 states (to eliminate the backlog)."

And she has her famous late father Mickey Hargitay to thank for helping her get through the difficult experience of dealing with rape victims. "It has been an incredible privilege to tackle these issues on and off screen," she adds. "It's also been overwhelming at times, but whenever things get difficult and I feel like I can't do something, I always hear my father asking me, 'Why not?' He'd always ask me that question when I was younger, and it really taught me that no one can ever tell me what I can or can't do."

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