Mariska Hargitay on Breaking the Silence around Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault

by Tiffany Knighten, Viacom


Emmy-award winning actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit fame took the stage at Viacom’s headquarters last week to engage employees in a serious yet crucial conversation. In a discussion assembled by Viacommunity, Viacom’s umbrella for the company’s social commitment, employees got an inside look at the creative process for the Viacom NO MORE public service announcements addressing domestic violence and sexual assault. The panel was moderated by Viacom Velocity’s Niels Schuurmans, who co-directed the spots, in conversation with Joyful Heart Foundation Founder and President Mariska Hargitay, with Rachel Howald, Chief Creative Officer for WPP Team BAC and executive creator director/writer of the spots.

Spearheaded by The Joyful Heart Foundation, the Viacommunity-produced and Hargitay-directed spots aired across Viacom networks in an effort to dispel the stigma and disrupt the silence around these issues. The PSAs featured a star-studded group of over 50 celebrities– among these familiar faces Viacom’s own talent Dave Navarro, host of Spike Ink Master; Shad Moss and Keshia Chanté, co-hosts of BET’s 106 & Park; Nick Lachey, host of VH1’s Big Morning Buzz; and MTV News correspondent Sway Calloway.

We had the opportunity to witness a very candid Hargitay as she expressed her passion for the campaign and admiration for the talent as they “unzipped” to openly talk about the issue.  Celebrities broke down their walls and shared bold, provocative messages to engage bystanders and challenge preconceived notions about abuse, with messaging such as NO MORE “That can’t happen to guys” and NO MORE “She just needs to get over it.”

“You are a company that inspires engagement. You all are forward-thinking with passion, conviction and vision,” said Hargitay. “I am so grateful to you and your team for being so willing to just go there.”

For the Q&A, Joyful Heart CEO Maile Zambuto and board member Peter Hermann added their extremely knowledgeable voices to the conversation, answering some thoughtful and probing questions from the audience.

Speaking about how interested employees can get involved, Hargitay said, “It’s as simple as starting a conversation. We’re creating a safe place for people to talk peacefully.”

In airing the No More PSAs, Viacom is using its megaphones to normalize the conversation around domestic violence and sexual assault. This unique collaboration has brought the No More message to our audiences in 700 million homes in 160 countries. Cheers to the team for their success on opening the doors to these essential conversations.

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