The Law & Order: SVU star will discuss Vice President Joe Biden's leadership on violence against women policy, and specifically the nationwide backlog of untested rape kits

By Natalie Stone
August 19, 2020 10:00 AM
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Mariska Hargitay will be speaking at the Democratic National Convention about an important topic that is near to her heart.

The Law & Order: SVU star will discuss 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) on Wednesday night's virtual airing of the DNC, PEOPLE can exclusively announce.

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.

Hargitay, 56, 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 and Joe Biden
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Since meeting in 2013, Hargitay and Biden, 77, 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.

Since its creation six years ago, Congress has approved $41-48 million annually for the program.

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."

Mariska Hargitay
Monica Schipper/Getty Images

In addition to Hargitay's appearance, Biden's newly announced running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, former President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. will also address voters and amp up the campaign on Wednesday night. (The Republican National Convention, featuring President Donald Trump, will be next week.)

Along with traditional TV news outlets, the DNC proceedings will be available to stream live on DemConvention.com. Also check out the DNC's YouTube, Facebook and Twitter presences or search for the 2020 DNC app on Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices. With Alexa-enabled devices, listen or watch along by saying, “Alexa, play the Democratic National Convention.”