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Mariska Hargitay
Credit: AssantePR

Emmy winner Mariska Hargitay, who is known for her role on Law & Order: SVU, will be hosting a major event on Monday in New York City that coincides with the work that her character Olivia Benson does on the NBC smash hit program.

The event is called An Evening with Norbert Leo Butz & Friends – A Benefit to Support Survivors of Sexual Violence, and it will take place at 54 Below (254 West 54th Street). There will be two separate sets, one at 7:00 PM and one at 10:00 PM, and will feature the star power of not only Mariska as host but other notables including Norbert Leo Butz, Aaron Tveit, Jessie Mueller, Sherie Renee Scott, Lindsay Mendez, Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal with musical direction by Michael Moritz, Jr.

It is being presented by The Angel Band Project, whose inspiration came from an unthinkable tragedy.  In July of 2009 in Seattle, WA, a man crept through an open window in the middle of the night at the home of Teresa Butz and her partner, Jennifer Hopper. After repeatedly raping and stabbing the women, Teresa fought back. According to police, her action saved Jennifer’s life but cost her her own. This tragic event and subsequent trial that followed were chronicled in the Pulitzer Prize-winning story, “The Bravest Woman in Seattle” by Eli Sanders.

After an emotional but musically-uplifting funeral service, lifelong best friends got together with the idea of recording a CD in Teresa’s memory. Teresa’s brother, two-time Tony Award-winner Norbert Leo Butz and Teresa’s surviving partner, Jennifer, joined their efforts. Their aim was simple: to capture the power in the music they heard to help others heal from the effects of sexual violence. The “Take You With Me” CD was released in 2010. Since that time, the vision has expanded to use music therapy to directly impact the lives of survivors.

In 2014, The Angel Band Project created the groundbreaking music therapy program, “Songs of Survival” in St. Louis, MO. In this program board certified music therapists work in small groups of teens and adult survivors as part of their healing process. In late 2016, the program expanded to include Seattle, WA, and in 2017, in collaboration with New York University’s Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Center, The Angel Band Project began serving survivors of sexual violence in the greater New York City area.

“Music is able to contain and express the complex legacy of emotions left by such experiences for which words are not adequate. And equally importantly, the act of creating music with other people is a life-embracing activity that helps survivors to reclaim their sense of self as whole and valuable human beings, something that can be suppressed, but not eliminated, by the experience of violence or abuse of any type.” said Ken Aigen, Associate Professor of Music Therapy, New York University, Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Center.

An Evening with Norbert Leo Butz & Friends will be the first New York City fundraising effort for The Angel Band Project. All artists have donated their time for this event and proceeds will be used to grow outreach efforts in the New York metro area.

“One in five women will be the victim of a sexual assault in her lifetime,” said Angel Band Project Executive Director and co-founder, Rachel Ebeling. “One of the biggest obstacles that victims of sexual assault encounter in the aftermath of being assaulted is the fear of being judged or not believed. A sense of isolation and blame is very common amongst victims of such violence. The Angel Band Project is here to show support, belief, and community for survivors. Until sexual violence is no longer tolerated, we walk in solidarity with survivors on their journey to healing.”

Tickets are available online here or by calling 54 Below at (646) 476-3551. A three-course meal with a premium open-bar is included in the ticket price and all proceeds from this evening go to benefit The Angel Band Project.

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