As tough-talking detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: SVU,” Mariska Hargitay is rarely at a loss for words.
But in a new series of public service announcements about domestic violence and sexual assault, the 50-year-old Emmy winner shows just how difficult it is for her and other celebrities to talk about the subject.
“There was no one who didn’t have a particular line resonate so deeply that they had to take a moment to gather themselves,” Hargitay, who directed the spots and whose Joyful Heart Foundation produced them, told ABC News.
The new series of PSAs, titled “Speechless,” which start rolling out today, are comprised of just those moments. The new spots, which are visually spare and use only ambient sound, weren’t planned. They were the unexpected –and unscripted — byproduct of emotions that ran high while shooting previously aired spots in the “No More” campaign to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
In the previous PSAs, which began airing in September, celebrities, as well as current and former NFL players, are seen speaking out against domestic violence. The NFL rolled out the spots during game times amid a number of high-profile cases involving NFL players and domestic violence.
But Hargitay said the celebrity campaign had been in the works since she founded Joyful Heart for sexual assault survivors 10 years ago. It was after joining forces with No More that the campaign got momentum.
Once the celebrity PSAs began airing during NFL broadcasts, Hargitay said, “Players started reaching out, wanting to be involved, wanting to speak out. Some came because they had personally experienced violence and abuse, others because they felt moved to take a lead in bringing change. But their lives — and their souls — had been touched by these issues.”
The first “Speechless” spots featuring current and former NFL players and directed by Hargitay, along with Blair Underwood and Tate Donovan, aired during NFL broadcasts on Thanksgiving Day for more than 92 million viewers.
Next up, the three directors as well as Hargitay’s “SVU” co-stars Chris Meloni and Ice T, Andre Braugher, Hilary Swank, Tim Gunn, Mary J. Blige, Debra Messing and more will appear.
Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro is among them.
He told ABC News that he got involved because the issue of domestic violence is “pretty close to my heart.” When he was 15, Navarro’s mother Connie Navarro was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. John Riccardi spent nearly a decade on the run, until he was finally captured in 1991 after the case was featured on “America’s Most Wanted.” He’s currently serving life without parole in a California prison.
“It was a horrific relationship that ended in tragedy,” Navarro said, adding, “it affected my life greatly.”
“I have first-hand knowledge how these types of situations can escalate. The fact is the realm of the impossible is in fact possible, which is why it’s important for me to get the word out now,” said the 47-year-old rocker, speaking on behalf of Viacommunity, Viacom’s social impact umbrella.
“We are trying to raise awareness so people can get help or even assess their situation,” he said. “The denial is so thick that sometimes it’s hard to get a grasp of one’s self within a conflict. But if someone can see themselves in the campaign, maybe they can reach out for help.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Though Navarro and his fellow celebrities are showing just how hard it is to talk about domestic violence in the new spots, their goal is really to get the conversation started.
“The fact is we are having a conversation,” Navarro said. “I wouldn’t be talking to you about this experience in my life if not for this.”
Added Hargitay, “Most simply put, we want these spots to bring these issues out of the darkness and into the light.”