Mariska Hargitay: A Hollywood star for an actress – and activist

Mariska Hargitay got a Hollywood star for her role on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." But Mariska Hargitay also heads a foundation against domestic violence.

Mariska Hargitay is known by millions for her role as Detective Olivia Benson on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

For her 14 years on the NBC series (where she's won an Emmy and Golden Globe award), Hargitay was presented the 2,511th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Friday.

But for thousands of women, she's left another mark as indelible as any plaque on a sidewalk. Hargitay is the cofounder and president of the Joyful Heart Foundation, which she launched in 2004. The foundation's stated mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.

Hargitay writes on the foundation website that her role as Det. Benson awakened her to the need.

"It all started when I began my work on ‘Law & Order: Speical Victims Unit’ over a decade ago. In my research for my role, I encountered statistics that shocked me: One in three women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted. More than five children die every day in this country as a result of child abuse and neglect, and up to 15 million children witness domestic violence in their homes each year."

At the Hollywood star event on Friday, Hargitay was surrounded by family and friends, including several of the actors who have supported the foundation. "Mariska is rare that in her success she finds a way to inspire and empower other people," said Hilary Swank at Friday's ceremony in Hollywood.

Swank, a longtime friend and two-time Academy Award winner, was joined by "Smash" star Debra Messing, "Touch" and "Prime Suspect" actress Maria Bello, and actor Blair Underwood, most recently of "Ironside" fame.

They are also among some 40 celebrities supporting a new public service ad campaign called "No More,' to raise awareness about domestic violence and encourage people to speak out.

"60% of Americans, 15 years of age or older, know a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. Among the 70% of women who have experienced domestic violence and told someone about it, more than half (58%) said that no one helped them," according to the No More campaign.

"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" creator Dick Wolf also recognized at Friday's ceremony that Hargitay has a role and an influence beyond her on-screen TV persona:  "You are one of the icons of television, and certainly, I think the female icon for millions of women not only here, but all around the world."

Joyful Heart Foundation says that it has served more than 13,500 individuals through its healing and wellness programs, as well as connected with more than 1.5 million people through its website to help make policy changes in many states.

Hargitay is married and the mother of three children.

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