Mariska Hargitay Appears at DNC to Address Nationwide Backlog of Untested Rape Test Kits

The Law & Order star also produced the 2017 HBO documentary I Am Evidence, which "exposes the shocking number of untested rape kits in the United States today"

Mariska Hargitay is committed to bringing support and healing to victims of sexual assault.

During Wednesday evening's virtual Democratic National Convention, the Law & Order: SVU star discussed former Vice President Joe Biden's leadership on violence against women policy, and specifically the nationwide backlog of untested rape kits (known as the rape kit backlog).

Stressing that Biden, 77, is the "kind of leader" who believes that a woman's life is worth fighting for, Hargitay, who spoke alongside survivors of domestic and sexual assault Ruth Glenn and Carly Dryden, added, "I created the Joyful Heart Foundation to help survivors heal and to change the way our society response to sexual violence."

"The vice president has worked tirelessly by our side to end the backlog, hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits," said Hargitay, 56, who added. "And our work will continue because testing kits not only makes our country safer, but it sends a final message to survivors: that what happened to them matters."

Mariska Hargitay
Mariska Hargitay. Monica Schipper/Getty Images

"I'm voting for Joe Biden for my daughter, for my sons, for all of our children," Hargitay concluded.

Hargitay and her Joyful Heart Foundation — its mission is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and support survivors’ healing — has partnered with Biden for years to combat these issues.

Mariska Hargitay; Joe Biden
Mariska Hargitay and Joe Biden. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Since meeting in 2013, Hargitay and Biden have worked together to generate funding opportunities to address these issues, which has resulted in the federal government creating the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) in 2014.

This Justice Department program provides local communities with resources to test backlogged rape kits in their police storage facilities, create multi-disciplinary teams to investigate and prosecute cases connected to the backlog, and address the need for victim notification and re-engagement with the criminal justice system.

Hargitay's desire to create her Joyful Heart Foundation came as a result of her playing the beloved role of Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order, on which Biden made a cameo appearance in September 2016.

"[Mariska] received hundreds, then thousands of letters and emails from survivors disclosing their stories of abuse, many for the first time," the foundation's website explains. "She wanted to answer — really answer — those letters, to address the suffering they described, and honor acts of courage they represented."

She also produced the 2017 documentary I Am Evidence, which "exposes the shocking number of untested rape kits in the United States today," the HBO description reads.

Law and Order SVU
Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU. Virginia Sherwood/NBC

In addition to Hargitay's appearance, Biden's newly announced running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, former President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren will address voters on Wednesday night. On Thursday, Biden will formally accepts his party's nomination.

Due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this year's DNC is centered on virtual programming each night this week from 9-11 p.m. ET; it is airing on TV and online.

The Republican National Convention, featuring President Donald Trump, will be next week.

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