“After the first year of Law & Order SVU, I started getting a very different type of fan mail,” Mariska Hargitay mused from the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday night. “I’d been on other shows, and you get the ‘I love your show!’ or ‘You’re so pretty!’ or you know, whatever silly fan mail is. But I started getting letters from women disclosing their stories of sexual assault for the first time to me, a character on TV, and I would walk down the street and people would stop me and say, ‘Your show saved my life.’ And you realize, you know, something isn’t right here! I was staggered by the statistics: I couldn’t believe it. This is something we need to talk about. It’s an epidemic!”


Hargitay turned out for the fourth annual celebration of her anti-domestic violence charity, the Joyful Heart Foundation in an embroidered floor-length Carolina Herrera gown and Fred Leighton earrings. Her involvement helped rally support from many friends and admirers (both from the industry and otherwise).


”She’s my hero!” an Oscar de la Renta-clad Hilary Swank enthused, “and she’s my best friend.”


Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin were on hand, speaking briefly during the dinner portion of the evening about the importance of the foundation to women, the world over, with Brian Williams manning the microphone for most of the night.


Wynonna Judd and Maria Bello were also present to pledge their support. Patti Smith performed at the gala with Adam Duritz, and Samantha Ronson D.J.’ed while her mother, Ann Dexter-Jones, looked proudly on.


Isaac Mizrahi just had to voice his “admiration for Mariska, really.” The designer smiled, “She’s just such a wonderful person. I really, really do admire her.”


On the second floor of MoMA, near a large heart-shaped sculpture made of the cardboard boxes that contain rape kits, a few women manned a table for End the Backlog, a foundation which aims to improve the state system for dealing with untested rape kits. Letters were provided for all state representatives.


“I’m just thankful that I had a platform and an opportunity to be of service,” Hargitay commented in response to all the praise. “It was just an idea that I had and I had no idea how to do it and we’re doing it, you know, baby steps. We’re the little engine that could, and to be here tonight is such an honor.”

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