Mariska Hargitay Opens Up About Being Raped In Her 30s

For the first time, actor Mariska Hargitay is opening up about having been raped in her 30s by a former male friend.

In an essay for People published Wednesday, the “Law and Order: SVU” actor recalled attempting “to set a boundary” between herself and her alleged rapist, whom she did not name. After he assaulted her, Hargitay wrote, she went into “freeze mode, a common trauma response when there is no option to escape.”

“It wasn’t sexual at all. It was dominance and control,” she wrote. “I couldn’t process it. I couldn’t believe that it happened. That it could happen. So I cut it out. I removed it from my narrative.”

In 2004, Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, a New York-based advocacy group for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Speaking to People in 2020, she said investigating sex crimes as “SVU” character Olivia Benson had endeared her to real-life survivors. “People used to call me the accidental activist,” she told the magazine.

Mariska Hargitay on the New York set of "Law and Order: SVU."
Mariska Hargitay on the New York set of “Law and Order: SVU.”

Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images

As the public face of the organization, however, the Golden Globe winner recalled giving several speeches in which she denied being a sexual assault survivor herself ― just one example, she noted in her essay this week, of her efforts to minimize the trauma she experienced.

“I now have so much empathy for the part of me that made that choice because that part got me through it,” she wrote.

By coming forward about her experience, Hargitay ― who turns 60 this month ― is hoping to encourage fellow rape survivors to “be able to talk about sexual assault the same way they now talk about cancer.”

“Tell someone you’ve survived cancer, and you’re celebrated,” she wrote. “I want the same response for sexual assault survivors. I want no shame with the victim.”

As far as justice for her assailant is concerned, Hargitay said she wants “acknowledgment and an apology.”

Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

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