A much-loved TV cop speaks out to celebrate what Manhattan's DA decided regarding rape kits.

It's like she stepped off of my TV and into my real life to continue kicking ass in the real world, along with other heroes and advocates for rape victims.

You probably know Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson from NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." There, she spends her days taking down some of TV's most vile and disgusting bad guys.

Turns out, though, that her real life isn't all that different. As president and founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, Mariska advocates for sexual abuse victims around the world and works hard to help them heal.


Mariska's top priority? Our country's rape kit problem.

Rape kits go by many names: sexual assault evidence collection kits, sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kits, and others. Essentially, they're packets of evidence, like photographs, swabs, and blood and urine specimens collected following a sexual assault. And it's probably no surprise that the collection of this evidence is often painfully invasive for the victim.

Which is why it really sucks there's a backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits.

Mariska puts it like this:

But there is some good news.

With the support of Mariska and the Joyful Heart Foundation, Manhattan's district attorney recently pledged $35 million to help eliminate that backlog.

His name is Cyrus R. Vance Jr. And those GIFs? That's Mariska right after thanking him for being a great ally to the cause.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Vance's pledge will actually do a lot more than help tackle the rape kit backlog. It'll also go toward creating comprehensive data and information sharing systems nationwide. That means we'll be better equipped to identify suspects, convict perpetrators, prevent future offenses, and even free the innocent. Not just in Manhattan, but across the country.

But there's more work to do. A lot of it, actually.

Mariska says, "So based on test results, there is a staggering number of witnesses to track down, case files to analyze, suspects to pursue, and survivors to reengage with care, with expertise, and with compassion."

And she's right. What her organization has accomplished in conjunction with the district attorney's office is only a baby step toward the ultimate goal.

But here's another.

President Obama just doubled down on the backlog problem with an additional $41 million.

That's a lot of money. And it means making an even bigger dent in the backlog, along with even better information sharing. All in the name of getting survivors the justice they deserve.

Though we still have a long road ahead.

The important thing, for now, is that survivors of sexual assault have some powerful people in their corner. Fighting on their behalf.

The Manhattan DA.

The president of the United States.

And a badass TV cop who won't be backing down any time soon.

You can watch the video here from to learn more about how Cyrus, Mariska, and the Joyful Heart Foundation are making a difference.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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