08/21/2012 09:37 am ET

Todd Akin Abortion Comments Spur Advocates To Action: 5 Ways You Can Support Rape Victims

Rep. Todd Akin’s polarizing view of abortion has ignited heated debates across the nation, his own party and the activism spectrum. But some say it’s presented an opportune chance to raise awareness and exact policy change.

The GOP Senate nominee caused a firestorm on Sunday when he offered his opinion on abortion in the case of rape. He said that pregnancy in such situations is “really rare” and that "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Victims and advocates came forward to decry his comments, agreeing that they were callous and unfounded.

But some, despite their malcontent, view this moment as a critical opportunity to call on leaders and the survivor community to band together to improve advocacy organizations and the way rape victims are treated.

“I have been getting increasingly frustrated as I read about legislators and influential decision makers in our country who try to minimize the experience of victims, and reframe rape as some mishap that should be downplayed,” Alexis Marbach, of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, wrote in a blog post Monday. “But as frustrated as I am, I also see this as a tremendous opportunity to provide education to elected officials and serve as a resource to them as they work to generate policies that influence rape crisis center and sexual assault survivors.”

To get involved in the movement to strengthen the voice, and the impact of rape advocacy groups, consider getting involved in the organizations below.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the largest U.S. charity that fights sexual violence. RAINN's legislative efforts include testifying before Congress about the backlog of unanalyzed DNA casework and educating the media and lawmakers about the issue. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit operates an online instant-messaging-like hotline, as well as a national sexual assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. There are numerous ways to volunteer and support RAINN, which designates 88 percent of donations for programs and services that help victims heal, educate the public and improve public policy. Learn how to get involved here.

Men Can Stop Rape
Galvanizing men to fight violence against women, Men Can Stop Rape provides youth mentorship, campaigns that empower bystanders and college campus initiatives. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit offers also hosts online "Masculinity Conversations," breaking down stereotypes, exploring gender norms and discussing what it means to be masculine. Men Can Stop Rape offers ways to support its efforts through donations and volunteer opportunities ranging from fundraising to campaigning to help with tasks such as web development. Learn how to get involved here.

Students Activate For Ending Rape empowers college students to fight sexual violence on campus by providing resource centers and trainings. SAFER's Activist Mentoring Program provides one-on-one mentorship in which a trained student activist provides insight on efforts such as affecting policy reform. The New York-based nonprofit provides an online library of resources, which includes introductory information on activism and policy analysis. The organization fully relies on volunteers for outreach, web design, event planning and more. Learn how to get involved here.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center educates and supports programs that provide services to individual victims by distributing statistical, preventative, and general information regarding sexual violence. Each April, the Pennsylvania-based organization hosts a national sexual assault awareness month (SAAM) during which it holds the Visionary Voice awards -- a program that recognizes those who commit themselves to ending sexual violence. Learn how to get involved here.

A grassroots nonprofit committed to breaking the silence surrounding sexual and domestic violence, Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE) focuses on individual projects that tackle specific aspects of the issue. Most recently, the Binding Project aimed to promote solidarity by giving victims, loved ones and supporters the chance to create bracelets dotted with words of empowerment to form an installation piece that will be exhibited in Chicago and New York City. Learn how to get involved here.