Thirty reports of child abuse will be made in the five minutes it takes you to read this article. That's 3.3 million reports each year, involving six million children. In this country, five children die every day as a result of child abuse and neglect.
When I began my role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, my eyes were opened to the staggering statistics of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. But what really opened my eyes -- and subsequently my heart -- was the fan mail I started receiving. Instead of asking for an autographed photo and telling me about their favorite episodes, survivors were disclosing their stories of abuse -- many for the first time.
In 2004, I founded the Joyful Heart Foundation with the intention of helping survivors heal and reclaim their lives. Today, our 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.
I know these issues are difficult to discuss. They're heavy and complex, and they involve pain, fear and isolation -- and an entrenched lack of understanding. But the greater the number of people willing to bear the heavy burden of these topics, the lighter each individual's load will be.
This month, Joyful Heart is proud to team up with Do the KIND Thing, an initiative launched by KIND to try and make the world a little kinder. Each month, Do the KIND Thing challenges people to carry out a specific act of kindness with the promise that if enough people sign up to do so at KINDmovement.com, KIND will pay it forward on a larger scale by carrying out a BIG KIND Act. To date, Do the KIND Thing has inspired hundreds of thousands of unexpected acts of kindness and bettered the lives of more than half a million people in need.
We all have a role to play in supporting survivors and preventing abuse. Now through October 2nd, I am asking people everywhere to commit to support a parent or caregiver by offering a helping hand, preparing a meal together or simply asking how they're doing. Your kindness can have a huge impact. Studies have shown that parents and caregivers with strong support networks are less likely to abuse or neglect their children. And if enough people pledge to participate at KINDmovement.com, I, along with friends and supporters of Joyful Heart and KIND, will package and deliver healing kits to hundreds of abused children currently seeking protection at the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center in New York City, as well as centers in Los Angeles and Honolulu, where Joyful Heart also offers its programs and services.
Together, we can shed light on the issue of child abuse and engage people everywhere to be part of the solution. Please join me.
And thank you for your kindness.
Mariska Hargitay is the Emmy Award-winning star of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on NBC and the Founder & President of the Joyful Heart Foundation. Joyful Heart's 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.