By: Taylor Gates
Mariska Hargitay has been passionate about giving a voice to survivors of sexual assault ever since landing the role of Olivia Benson on NBC’s “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” in 1999. The actress and activist has been outspoken about how starring in the Dick Wolf drama spurred her into philanthropic action and made her a better advocate.
In addition to the Joyful Heart Foundation—the nonprofit she started in 2004—Hargitay has also helped develop the NO MORE PSA campaign and most recently teamed up with prosecutor Kym Worthy and co-directors Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir to produce the HBO documentary “I Am Evidence.”
“When I first began [on “SVU”], these letters started coming in from viewers,” Hargitay says in the trailer for the film. “These men and women were disclosing to me their stories of abuse. At first it was a few, then there was more, then it was hundreds, then it was thousands. The majority of them included some version of, ‘I’ve never told this to anybody before.’ And here I was, an actress on a TV show, getting these letters and [being] immersed in these issues. So I educated myself and got involved.”
“I Am Evidence” seeks to shed light on the epidemic of untested rape kits and expose related flaws in the justice system. In one clip, Hargitay calls the ignored and mishandled evidence “the clearest and most shocking demonstration of how we regard these crimes” and voices her determination to reach her goal of eradicating the backlog entirely by 2020.
Reviews for the film have been overwhelmingly positive. The Huffington Post calls it “eye-opening,” and Paste Magazine summarized it as “an intense documentary carrying the kind of intellectual and statistical weight we need to enact change.” The documentary won a Provincetown International Film Festival prize back in June, was an official selection at the prestigious Tribeca Festival this spring, and most recently took home an audience award at the Traverse City Film Festival.
The documentary will be screened at the Women Texas Film Festival in Dallas on August 19th and the City Arts & Lectures event in San Francisco September 15th. Because of its intensity and potentially triggering topics, viewer discretion is advised.