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Mariska Hargitay pens open letter about her own harrowing rape

Jami Ganz
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Actress Mariska Hargitay has opened up about her harrowing experience being raped in a new essay.

The 59-year-old star of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” — a procedural that spotlights sexual assault crimes — spoke about how she came to terms with her own rape.

“A man raped me in my thirties. It wasn’t sexual at all. It was dominance and control. Overpowering control. He was a friend. Then he wasn’t. I tried all the ways I knew to get out of it,” the Emmy winner wrote in an open letter published by People.

“I was terrified. I didn’t want it to escalate to violence. I now know it was already sexual violence, but I was afraid he would become physically violent. I went into freeze mode, a common trauma response when there is no option to escape. I checked out of my body. I couldn’t process it.”

Noting she “couldn’t believe that it happened,” Hargitay said she “removed it from my narrative” and “minimized it,” such as when she told husband Peter Hermann — who had a recurring role on “SVU” — she said, “I mean, ‘it wasn’t rape.‘”

“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,” said Hargitay, whose loved ones eventually encouraged her to name what happened. “Then I had my own realization. My own reckoning. Now I’m able to see clearly what was done to me.”

Noting she wants “no shame with the victim,” Hargitay expressed her hope that survivors of sexual assault will be treated with the same reverence as survivors of cancer.

“This is a painful part of my story. … But it doesn’t come close to defining me, in the same way that no other single part of my story defines me,” said Hargitay, who founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, which helps survivors of abuse and sexual violence. “I’m turning 60, and I’m so deeply grateful for where I am. I’m renewed and I’m flooded with compassion for all of us who have suffered. And I’m still proudly in process.”

In addition to celebrating her milestone birthday, Hargitay is gearing up for the 25th season of the “SVU” — the longest-running drama series in television history — which Hargitay says has inspired other survivors to report their own experiences with assault or abuse

©2024 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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