For weeks on end the news has been inundated with accusations of sexual assault followed by half-apologies or denials. Of course, many women are glad to see powerful men finally held accountable for their actions, but the constant stream of unsettling stories has also made it difficult to shake the frustration and anger they fuel. If you want to do something with that pent-up energy, there are some productive ways to channel your anger into helping sexual assault survivors.
While the allegations against Kevin Spacey prove men can also be targets of sexual harassment and assault, the problem predominantly effects women. Data from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) shows that one in five women are raped in their lifetime, an estimate some believe to actually be conservative. The current news cycle has been a consistent reminder of how men abuse their power to harass and assault women, and though the spotlight has been cast on the famous, women from every walk of life are mistreated at home, at work, in public, or anywhere.
Rather than sitting at home fuming about the current state of the world over a bottle of wine or venting your frustrations on Twitter (there's still plenty of time for that, don't worry), helping survivors is a great way to stand beside women and put that negative energy toward something beneficial.
Give To A Sexual Assault Victim Relief Fund
The NSVRC's fund for sexual assault victims and programs impacted by disasters helps keep crisis and counseling centers open, protect evacuees from violence, cover evacuation and relocation costs, and repair homes. With three consecutive hurricanes hitting Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico this year, it's especially important that survivors in the effected areas aren't ignored. And, as NSVRC communications director Megan Thomas tells Bustle, sexual violence often increases after natural disasters.
"The Relief Fund helps ensure that advocacy programs can stay up and running during disaster situations and serve any survivors who may need their immediate or ongoing assistance," Thomas says.
Fulfill Women's Shelters' Wishlists
About 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. every minute, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Women's shelters act as a safe haven for women trying to escape abusive partners, and need supplies in order to house women seeking assistance.
Domestic Shelter's online database makes it easy to search for women's shelters in your area and quickly pull up a wishlist of items they need. Shelters could use everything from razors, to children's toys, to cleaning supplies, all of which are just a few clicks (and a credit card) away.
Donate Your Old Cell Phone
Verizon's HopeLine program allows you to easily donate your old phone from any provider to a domestic abuse survivor. Women fleeing an abusive situation often have to disconnect their phones, leaving them without a way to contact the police if needed, and making it difficult to get a job. If you have an old phone lying around, or plan to upgrade soon, consider giving it to a survivor in need.
"Wireless phones and technology serve as a vital link for all of us," the National Domestic Violence Hotline's website says of the program. "They’re also an especially safe and reliable way for domestic violence victims and survivors to reach emergency or support services in times of crisis and stay connected with employers, family, and friends."
Donating a phone is easy: First, disconnect the phone’s service, erase its data, and remove the SIM card. Then, put it in a bag with the charger and any relevant accessories, and drop it in a HopeLine bin at a nearby Verizon store. You can also get a prepaid shipping label to mail it in. Check out HopeLine's website for more info.
Shop In A Way That Benefits The NCADV
Alternatively, if you're shopping for a phone or phone accessories, you can do it in a way that supports the NCADV's efforts to end domestic violence. When you shop Priority Wireless' website, 10 percent of everything you spend will go directly to the NCADV. Ruth Glenn, NCADV's executive director, tells Bustle the pre-owned phones go through extensive screening and testing before being re-sold online, and the donated funds "support the NCADV programs that support safety and wellness for victims of domestic violence." Nothing beats buying a phone and simultaneously helping combat violence against women.
Or, if you prefer to donate directly to the NCADV, you can do so here.
Also, don't forget that when you're doing your holiday shopping on Amazon, you can visit smile.amazon.com and choose a charity to support. A small portion of your purchase — 0.5 percent — will go to your designated charity every time you shop, and that can add up.
Volunteer Or Fundraise For RAINN
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization that operates a sexual assault hotline, supports survivors, and works to prevent sexual assault. RAINN relies on volunteers to keep its hotline running 24/7, and anyone who can dedicate at least 12 hours a month to helping survivors can apply online. Volunteers work remotely, so you don't even have to leave your couch.
RAINN also asks people to fundraise on its behalf to fund the services it provides to survivors. If you have a birthday coming up, you can pledge your birthday to RAINN by asking your friends and family to make donations instead of buying presents (Facebook also makes this easy by allowing you to start a fundraiser for your birthday).
And even if your birthday is months away, you can always ask the people in your life to donate to a good cause. You can sign up to fundraise on RAINN's website.
"News about sexual violence can prompt negative reactions, and it's important to support survivors when these stories are frequently on the news," says Sara McGovern, RAINN's press secretary, noting that it's also vital to be there for friends struggling with news cycle. "Above all, be supportive and caring."
The continuous flood of allegations in the news acts as a constant reminder that violence against women is still a pervasive issue in the U.S., but taking action to support survivors is a concrete way to fight back. After all, supporting other women is never a bad idea.