‘Law & Order: SVU’ Detective Reveals Real-Life Rape: ‘He Was A Friend. Then He Wasn’t.’
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 19: Mariska Hargitay attends The WMC 2023 Women's Media Awards at The Whitby Hotel on October 19, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for The Women's Media Center)
John Lamparski/Getty Images for The Women’s Media Center

“Law & Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay, who will turn 60 on January 23, revealed in a stunning first-person essay that she herself was raped by a former friend when she was in her 30s.

Hargitay, who has played Detective Olivia Benson on the popular procedural drama for more than two decades, shared her story in a cover-story essay for PEOPLE Magazine’s latest issue.

“A man raped me in my thirties,” she began. “It wasn’t sexual at all. It was dominance and control. Overpowering control.”

The actress went on to detail the situation, saying that until that day, she had considered that man a friend.

“He was a friend. Then he wasn’t,” she explained. “I tried all the ways I knew to get out of it. I tried to make jokes, to be charming, to set a boundary, to reason, to say no. He grabbed me by the arms and held me down. 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.”

For a long time, Hargitay said, she could not even begin to process what had happened — and so she locked it away and lived as though it never had. She was not a survivor, she said, because she never acknowledged that she was a victim.


“I cut it out. I removed it from my narrative,” she said. “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.”

“I look back on speeches where I said, ‘I’m not a survivor.’ I wasn’t being untruthful; it wasn’t how I thought of myself,” she added.

Hargitay went on to speak about healing and justice — and said that for every survivor, those things can look very different.

“Survivors who’ve watched the show have told me I’ve helped them and given them strength. But they’re the ones who’ve been a source of strength for me,” she said. “They’ve experienced darkness and cruelty, an utter disregard for another human being, and they’ve done what they needed to survive. For some, that means making Olivia Benson a big part of their lives—which is an honor beyond measure—for others, it means building a foundation. We’re strong, and we find a way through.”

Hargitay concluded with her own request for justice — or at least, the first step toward what it might look like for her.

“For me, I want an acknowledgment and an apology. I’m sorry for what I did to you. I raped you. I am without excuse. That is a beginning. I don’t know what is on the other side of it, and it won’t undo what happened, but I know it plays a role in how I will work through this,” she said.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Detective Reveals Real-Life Rape: ‘He Was A Friend. Then He Wasn’t.’