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Joyful Heart Foundation
In 1999 I started playing detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Olivia is the product of rape and works to solve crimes of sexual violence and abuse. At that time I started educating myself about those issues. What struck me first were the statistics: One in three women at some point in her life will be sexually abused or assaulted. That opened my mind to the epidemic. What opened my heart were the thousands of letters and e-mails I received from survivors of abuse and rape. They didn't say, "I love your show. Can you send me an autographed picture?" They said, "I was raped when I was 15. I'm 40 now, and I've never told anyone." The idea that there were so many people living in silence and shame made me realize that giving a voice to these women was what I was meant to do. I started the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004. So far we've raised nearly $20 million and helped about 5,000 survivors, offering them wellness programs and workshops in things like art therapy and meditation. Domestic violence and abuse is spirit crushing; so many women throw in the towel on their lives after it happens to them. That's why the foundation is called Joyful Heart, because I know it's possible for these survivors to live full lives again -- and to have hearts that are filled with joy. To learn more, visitjoyfulheartfoundation.org