Today, October 2, Mariska Hargitay, star of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, is challenging people everywhere to “Do the KIND Thing” in support of her Joyful Heart Foundation, a non-profit organization she founded to heal, educate, and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. All you have to do is pledge to carry out an act of kindness—which could be as simple as cooking dinner for or with someone or just taking the time to ask how they are doing and really listen—at KINDmovement.com by the end of the day. If enough pledges are placed, KIND and the Joyful Heart Foundation will deliver healing kits to hundreds of children housed at the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center in New York City.
We had a chance to ask the Emmy award-winning actress how she got involved and how we can too. Find out, and then log on and pledge your act of kindness!
SHAPE: What is your connection to the Joyful Heart Foundation?
Hargitay: My role as Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit introduced me to the staggering statistics of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. But what really opened my eyes was the fan mail I started getting. Instead of asking for an autographed photo and telling me about their favorite episodes, survivors were disclosing their stories of abuse to me. I founded Joyful Heart in 2004 with the intention of helping survivors heal and reclaim their lives, and I continue to serve as the president.
RELATED: Learn more about Hargitay's efforts to help domestic abuse victims and meet seven other women who are making a difference.
SHAPE: Why did you decide to get the Joyful Heart Foundation involved with the “Do the KIND Thing” initiative?
Hargitay: The philosophy of “Do the KIND Thing” really spoke to us. The issue of violence against women and children that we seek to address at Joyful Heart is heavy, but we’ve always known that as more people gather together to help carry a heavy burden, the lighter each individual's load becomes. That's what “Do the KIND Thing” is all about: Many small acts of kindness can add up to real change.
SHAPE: What will you be doing as your “kind thing” this month?
Hargitay: I’ll be distributing child abuse and neglect tip cards at my son’s school and on the set of SVU. They provide information on how to prevent child abuse before it starts, as well as life-saving resources about how to identify and report abuse.
SHAPE: How can women get involved in your cause?
Hargitay: Right now we’re focusing on encouraging people to support the parents and caregivers around them: offer a helping hand, prepare a meal together, or simply ask how they’re doing. Kindness can have a huge impact. Studies have shown that parents and caregivers with strong support networks are less likely to abuse or neglect their children.
People have supported us in many other creative ways as well. They’ve run races for us, taught classes for us, hosted discussion groups about our issues, volunteered at events, all in support of our mission to bring healing and shed light. What we really want to drive home is that every effort helps—even a whisper makes us louder.
As an editor at SHAPE I have the chance to learn about the healthiest ways to cook, eat, and live from all sorts of experts but I’m also a single girl living in NYC with a busy schedule, active social life, and chocolate cravings. I’m here to share what works for me—and where I need a little help from you.