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This article, written by Law & Order: Special Victims Unit actress and Joyful Heart Foundation organization founder Mariska Hargitay, was published originally on AOL’s TV Squad. Here is the link, which includes video of Christine Lahti speaking of her experience in trying end violence against women, and video of Allison Siko, who plays Detective Elliot Stabler’s oldest daughter on the show, speaking about the staggering statistics of rape. The episode that Mariska refers to airs in the USA this coming week, November 17th on NBC.

This episode is one that is very close to my heart. Given that rape is the most common violent crime on campuses, it is likely that someone you know and love was a victim of sexual violence during college. It’s true for me — people I care deeply about were raped in college. So many of the letters I receive from fans are from women who were raped in college. In fact, we know that one out of four female students will be sexually assaulted before she graduates.

This episode captures the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, and highlights the obstacles for survivors who wish to find justice and healing. Most campus sexual assaults occur between individuals who know one another, and often involve alcohol. This can make investigations into the crime difficult, and this episode presents arguments about how to determine whether an individual who is drunk is able to consent to sex.

The bottom line is that when a victim is severely impaired by alcohol, there is no ability to consent to sex.

Campus rape is so prevalent, in part, because it is so easy for the perpetrators to get away with it. Many campus sexual assaults are resolved through college disciplinary systems, and they are often an inade quate and unsatisfactory alternative to the criminal justice system that provide neither justice nor healing for the survivor.

We can do more to address and reduce campus rape, and college leaders can do their part by shining light into the darkness of sexual violence on their campuses. That makes this episode so important, and is why it will resonate with so many people.

Mariska Hargitay

Joyful Heart Foundation

If you or somebody you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is out there. National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE and online RAINN.org. It’s free and confidential, and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Other RAINN resources:
How to get involved in the fight against sexual violence.
Volunteering information.
Getting involved on college campuses.
Where to donate to RAINN.

~*~ Greenlee