Mariska Hargitay Opens Up On Abuse

 January 10, 2024

In a deeply personal and courageous revelation, Mariska Hargitay, the renowned actress known for her role in "Law & Order: SVU," shared her traumatic experience of being raped in her 30s by someone she initially trusted as a friend.

This disclosure, part of an essay for People magazine, marks a significant moment in her life and the broader conversation about sexual assault and survivorship. Mariska Hargitay's journey from victim to vocal advocate offers a unique insight into the complex dynamics of sexual assault and the path to recovery.

During the traumatic incident, Hargitay tried various strategies to escape the situation. She attempted humor, setting boundaries, and reasoning with her assailant. However, as the situation escalated, she found herself physically overpowered and emotionally shattered. This led to a 'freeze mode' response, a common reaction in traumatic circumstances.

The struggle to process trauma

For years, Mariska Hargitay grappled with the aftermath of the assault. She pushed the memory away, refraining from discussing it even with close individuals like her husband, Peter Hermann. As she later realized, this form of denial was a survival mechanism. It was her way of coping with the overwhelming emotions and the harsh reality of the incident.

As time passed, Hargitay, through therapy and learning about trauma, started to confront and understand her experience. She recognized the importance of acknowledging the assault as a part of her history but not letting it define her entirety. This realization was a turning point in her healing process.

Mariska Hargitay's portrayal of a character dedicated to helping sexual assault survivors in "Law & Order: SVU" spanned over two decades. Ironically, this role became a source of strength for her, mirroring her journey of healing and empowerment.

Hargitay's impact on societal perspectives

Approaching her 60s, Hargitay is now focused on shifting the societal narrative surrounding sexual assault. She aims to eradicate the shame often associated with survivors and place it where it belongs - with the perpetrators. Through her public speaking and advocacy, she emphasizes the need for apologies and accountability from those who commit such acts.

In her essay, Mariska Hargitay articulates a powerful message: the assault, though a painful chapter, does not encapsulate her entire identity. She views it as a singular, albeit significant, part of a larger, multifaceted life story.

Hargitay's openness about her experience has been both a personal catharsis and a beacon of hope for others. By sharing her story, she aims to inspire change in how sexual assault is perceived and discussed in society.

The transformation from silence to advocacy

For many years, Mariska Hargitay did not publicly or privately acknowledge the rape. She immersed herself in her work with assault survivors through the Joyful Heart Foundation, yet did not identify as a survivor herself. This period of her life reflects the complex emotions and reactions individuals may experience following such traumatic events.

However, with time, the support of therapy, and a deeper understanding of trauma, Hargitay has come to terms with being a survivor. Her recent public acknowledgment is a testament to her healing journey and her commitment to supporting others who have endured similar experiences.

Mariska Hargitay's story is not just about the trauma of sexual assault but also about resilience, recovery, and the power of using one's voice for change. As she continues her role in "Law & Order: SVU," she remains a symbol of strength for many.

Reflecting on her experience, Mariska Hargitay shared:

 I couldn’t believe that it happened. That it could happen. So I cut it out. I removed it from my narrative. I now have so much empathy for the part of me that made that choice because that part got me through it. It never happened. Now I honor that part: I did what I had to do to survive.


Mariska Hargitay experienced a traumatic rape in her 30s by someone she trusted, a painful event she initially suppressed. She embarked on a journey toward healing and became an advocate for others.

Her role in "Law & Order: SVU" reflected her personal struggles and enabled her to voice support for other survivors. Now approaching 60, Hargitay actively works to transform societal views on sexual assault.

She stresses the need to eliminate the stigma faced by survivors and ensure accountability for perpetrators. Her story powerfully illustrates that while such experiences are harrowing, they don't encompass one's life.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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