As an actress, activist, and victims advocate, Mariska Hargitay is dedicated to being a force for change.
Inspired by her role as Detective Olivia Benson on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation (JHF), whose mission is to heal, educate, and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues. With hubs in New York, Los Angeles, and Hawaii, JHF offers healing retreats and community programs for survivors of abuse and the professionals who care for them.
“Joyful Heart is about the courage to heal, and all of our programming is dedicated to honoring that brave decision” – Mariska Hargitay
Hargitay has lent her time and voice to other organizations such as Lee National Denim Day (one of the largest single-day fundraisers for breast cancer) for which she was the 2007 Ambassador, the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center, the Santa Monica Rape Crisis Center, the Girl Scouts of America, Project ALS, the James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness, and Safe Horizon. She has also appeared in national campaigns for Got Milk and NBC’s “The More You Know.”
Hargitay won the 2006 Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama, a 2004 Golden Globe Award, six SAG Award nominations, and two Gracie Allen Awards from the American Women in Radio and Television. In 2009, Hargitay, along with the Joyful Heart Foundation, was honored with the Empowerment Award by Peace Over Violence.
Hargitay is married to actor Peter Hermann. The couple have one son.
Detective Deirdri Fishel is a 15-year veteran of law enforcement. She has been the primary investigator and case manager of the State College Police Department’s Victim Centered Intensive Care Management (VCICM) Unit since 2006. The VCICM Unit is tasked with investigating, coordinating, prosecuting, and responding to domestic violence and stalking crimes throughout the county.
Detective Fishel is a court-recognized expert on domestic violence. She is certified to train law enforcement personnel on domestic violence issues and has trained judges, prosecutors, municipal and state police officers, medical doctors, nurses, advocates, and other system professionals across the nation.
She has been a featured speaker/trainer at conferences for the National Center for Victims of Crime, the Stalking Resource Center, and the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
Sheryl Cates is chief executive officer for the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV), the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), and the Teen Dating Abuse Helpline.
Sheryl has more than 20 years of experience in the movement to end violence against women. She is recognized as a national leader in this effort. She is a recipient of the Legacy Award from the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community.
Sheryl has been prominently featured as an expert in the field of domestic violence on programs including The Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC’s Prime Time, Fox News, CBS’ Saturday Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, Larry King Live, and Court TV.
Sheryl has also served as a featured speaker at a roundtable dialogue at the White House to provide feedback on family violence programs to Attorney General John Ashcroft and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.