Thursday, April 4, 2024

The University of Iowa has reached an agreement to transition Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) services to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) to improve coordination and streamline services for victim-survivors.

RVAP and DVIP serve the same eight county region in southeast Iowa and have a shared purpose of supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Moving to one organization will provide a single point of access for the region and allow DVIP/RVAP to continue to grow and expand critical services.

“RVAP and DVIP are both long standing agencies. Our shared goal is to position RVAP to thrive in the eight-county region it serves through this transition to DVIP,” says Sarah Hansen, UI’s vice president for student life. “The UI will continue to partner with and support RVAP/DVIP both monetarily and through collaborative approaches to end sexual and domestic violence.”

DVIP will continue to offer support services for victim-survivors of intimate partner violence and add sexual assault support services that are currently being offered by RVAP by Sept. 30. All services will remain free and confidential. Current services being provided to victim-survivors by both agencies will continue uninterrupted.

“The university remains committed to supporting victim services on campus,” says Hansen. “We will continue our commitment to the prevention efforts outlined in the university’s Anti-Violence Plan through a collaboration between the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC) and RVAP/DVIP. Additionally, the new organization will continue to serve students, faculty, and staff.” 

The transition will not affect the role of advocates as outlined in the university’s policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct, nor will it affect the ability of students, faculty, or staff members to access advocacy services.

"This transition is another step toward improving access to services for victim-survivors of gendered violence and abuse. DVIP has partnered with RVAP and the University of Iowa for more than 40 years,” says Kristie Fortmann-Doser, executive director of DVIP. “Our goal during this transition is the continuity of care for victims-survivors. We will accomplish this with the expertise and commitment of our staff, funders, coalitions and community partners throughout our eight-county service area."

Both DVIP and RVAP serve an eight-county region in southeast Iowa, including Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Lee, Van Buren, and Washington counties. While RVAP has most recently been fully positioned within the University of Iowa, the majority of their clients do not report affiliation with the university. From July 2023 to March 2024, only 12% of direct services and 7% of crisis calls were from university-identified individuals.

This transition of services will affect 12 UI staff. Consistent with standard practice, the university will assist affected employees with resources that include career advising and a Layoff Networking Program. 

RVAP’s history 

RVAP was founded in 1973 when a local group of volunteers, Women Against Rape, started a rape crisis line and began responding to calls at night and on weekends.   

Initially, RVAP focused its efforts on supporting the university and Johnson County.  In 1998, services expanded to Cedar, Iowa, and Washington counties with federal grant funding. 

RVAP has always provided free services to anyone in need. While it initially functioned as a community agency with a university affiliation, over time, the organization became more integrated into the university. In the mid-2000’s, RVAP was more formally organized within the UI Division of Student Life. 

In 2013, the state of Iowa restructured victim services into six regions. Each region has a designated comprehensive sexual assault agency and a designated domestic violence agency. In a majority of regions, a unified agency provides both sexual assault and domestic violence services. Both RVAP and DVIP serve Region 6 (Johnson, Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Lee, Van Buren, and Washington counties). 

RVAP offers counseling, therapy, support groups, and 24-hour crisis lines. Staff answer questions and provide information, referrals, and options. In addition, the organization provides advocacy services to help clients navigate medica, legal, and other systems, work with third parties, and accompanies clients throughout these interactions.

RVAP also offers prevention education programs that focus on healthy relationships, consent, bystander intervention, and more.

The sexual assault support services that are currently being offered to members of the UI community through RVAP will continue uninterrupted. Campus-based advocacy services for students, faculty, and staff members will be provided through a contract between the RVAP/DVIP and the university.