In 1973, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) was created by a group of courageous and compassionate volunteers at the University of Iowa. Grounded in the truth that far too many people in our community – and throughout the world – were using gender and sex and tools of oppression, RVAP began as a program at the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC). The program began as a volunteer hotline service to ensure that anyone impacted by sexual violence could speak with a trained advocate for support and to learn about necessary resources. In the early years, these amazing volunteers took turns staying on a cot next to a landline telephone.
Now, 45 years later RVAP remains embedded in the Division of Student Life at the University of Iowa, and maintains its mission of creating a community that one day is free of sexual violence. While its mission remains steadfast, RVAP now provides services throughout eight eastern Iowa counties: Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Lee, Washington, and Van Buren. In addition to expanding its service region, RVAP has also expanded its services to now include free, confidential, trauma-informed advocacy, counseling, and therapy to anyone impacted by sexual violence, a 24-hour crisis line, and prevention education services.
“There really are not any other services that focus on what happens to a person who is sexually assaulted and what the community can do to end sexual assault,” says Director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault Beth Barnhill.
To celebrate its 45thanniversary, RVAP hosted a gala in May. The event welcomed nearly 200 people and honored the countless survivors, volunteers, staff, and allies whose courage and compassion are responsible for championing RVAP’s mission for the past 45 years.
Specifically, five individuals were honored as Change Makers for their tireless commitment to RVAP’s mission:
- Christine Grant: A champion of RVAP’s mission and women’s rights, Christine was instrumental in getting Title IX passed in 1972. Title IX created instrumental social change and paved the way for funding to begin supporting victim service agencies like RVAP throughout the country.
- Karla Miller: Served as RVAP’s Executive Director for more than 20 years, and continues to champion RVAP’s mission in our community
- Diane Funk: Served in a number of key roles during her extensive time at RVAP, including RVAP’s longest tenured Assistant Director, and also Executive Director
- Pam French: RVAP’s longest tenured volunteer, and present Advisory Council member
- John Gish: Washington County Attorney who is a phenomenal champion of survivors’ rights
RVAP also honored the Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline (ISAH) staff and volunteers for the amazing support and life-saving services they provided before the program was defunded in July 2017. Housed and operated by RVAP for 19 years, ISAH was defunded just as it was receiving unprecedented call volume – more than 4,000 calls in fiscal year 2017 alone. The office space at RVAP that served as the ISAH call center is now a group therapy soft space that has been named in their honor to ensure that the courage and compassion of these talented professionals will remain forever woven into the agency.
A great deal of progress has been made since 1973, but everyone at RVAP remains focused on the horizon, as there remains a great deal of progress still ahead. Today, as much as ever, RVAP's services matter deeply to our campus and community and RVAP is as committed as ever to its mission.