‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star Mariksa Hargitay Opens Up About Being Sexually Assaulted

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Mariska Hargitay is opening up about the time she was raped by a friend.

The actress, who plays captain Olivia Benson on the NBC show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit wrote in an essay for People that she was assaulted in her 30s by a man who she thought was a friend.

“He was a friend,” she wrote. “Then he wasn’t. I tried all the ways I knew to get out of it. I tried to make jokes, to be charming, to set a boundary, to reason, to say no. He grabbed me by the arms and held me down. I was terrified. I didn’t want it to escalate to violence. I now know it was already sexual violence, but I was afraid he would become physically violent. I went into freeze mode, a common trauma response when there is no option to escape.”

She went on to say that she was in denial of what happened to her for years and that she told people that she wasn’t a survivor, however, her perspective changed when she began to discuss the incident with her friends.

“They were the first ones to call it what it was. They were gentle and kind and careful, but their naming it was important.” She said they gave her things to think about and process in solitude, telling her, “Here is what it means when someone rapes another person, so on your own time, it could be useful to compare that to what was done to you.” That’s when she came to her own realization,” she wrote.

Hargitay added, “Now I’m able to see clearly what was done to me. I understand the neurobiology of trauma. Trauma fractures our mind and our memory. The way a mirror fractures.”

She also revealed in her essay how fans have come up to her and told her how SVU has helped them deal with their own experiences with sexual assault.

“I said for a long time that my hope was for people to be able to talk about sexual assault the same way they now talk about cancer,” she wrote. “Tell someone you’ve survived cancer, and you’re celebrated. I want the same response for sexual assault survivors. I want no shame with the victim. The shame of the act belongs with the perpetrator: They’re the ones who committed the heinous, shameful act.”

In 2004, Mariska Haritgay founded her organization “Joyful Heart” to help survivors of sexual and domestic violence.