The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa officials on the ‘difficult step’ of RVAP transition

The university announced that RVAP would transition to DVIP on April 4.
Ava Neumaier
Activists speak to a gathered crowd during an event on the Pentacrest protesting the University’s removal of RVAP, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

With the University of Iowa announcing the transition of RVAP’s services to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, or DVIP, on April 4, community members are concerned about the state of sexual assault resources in Iowa City. RVAP’s services will be moved to DVIP by Sept. 30.

According to UI officials, the transition of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program was needed to successfully provide sexual assault survivor and victim services on campus.

UI Vice President of Student Life Sarah Hansen said on April 16 that communication with RVAP staff on the transition happened earlier than anticipated.

“We had some folks who communicated — I think inappropriately — about what was going to happen, and we were really worried about the staff hearing from people other than us,” Hansen said.

UI Public Relations Manager Chris Brewer wrote in an email that the total budget for RVAP is about $1.1 million.

RVAP is an advocacy, education, and prevention organization for victims of sexual assault that provides its services at no cost and has existed for over 50 years. The program was founded in 1973 when a group of volunteers started a phone line to help sexual assault victims. RVAP’s services extend out to Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Lee, Washington, and Van Buren counties.

Hansen said after discussions to figure out the best way RVAP can serve survivors of sexual assault, the UI concluded the transition was the best solution. She added that the conversation about RVAP’s role in the university is a conversation that has been ongoing for 25 years.

“It’s come up multiple times in my history at the institution, most recently in 2018 when the previous vice president was here, and no one has necessarily been willing to take the difficult step of making that decision,” Hansen said.

Executive Director of DVIP Kristie Fortmann-Doser said she anticipates many of the same grants and funding RVAP receives will go to DVIP.

DVIP hiring more staff

Because of the transition, Fortmann-Doser said DVIP is expected to absorb a similar budget to RVAP, and it will likely hire 10 to 15 additional staff members. The UI is guaranteeing its funding to DVIP but will have to reapply to other revenue sources.

“That hiring will occur as soon as we have concrete numbers to put a budget together … we’re encouraging and inviting our RVAP staff to apply for those positions,” Fortmann-Doser said.

RVAP is composed of 12 daytime employees who work on-call and assist in the overarching goals of RVAP. Two of these 12 are full-time, while the rest work on contracts, Brewer said.

Brewer said of 12 daytime employees, six were laid off by RVAP’s closure. Two employees were previously notified of layoffs due to less funding, and four employees’ contracts were previously set to expire on June 30.

RVAP also has seven backup on-call direct service advocates, according to Brewer. The direct service advocates function as nighttime on-call staff members who assist people who call its 24/7 hotline.

Alta Medea, DVIP’s director of community engagement, said DVIP has 33 staff members located throughout its serviced region, and the organization has experienced a 38 percent increase in victims of domestic abuse requesting services since 2017.

Medea said she wants to see more funding from the Iowa Legislature because with limited financial support, more stress is put on victim services as a whole.

“We need the state of Iowa Legislature to fund victim services in general,” Medea said. “I think funding and victim services are vital to keeping all of the programming we need in place.”

Fortmann-Doser said the UI will keep RVAP’s name and hotline number for 18 to 24 months after it is completely transitioned to make sure survivors of sexual assault know where to access services.

RVAP employees react to transition

Olivia Brown, who works as an on-call direct service advocate at RVAP, said they were shocked and confused when they received a mass email from the UI Division of Student Life on April 4 informing them of the transition.

Brewer wrote that the DVIP Board of Directors voted on April 3 to approve the RVAP transition. He said officials had in-person meetings with the six regular RVAP staff members on April 4 to notify them of the transition. The entirety of the RVAP staff was informed via email.

A release from the UI on April 4 stated the reason behind moving RVAP is to allow both RVAP and DVIP continual growth in the community. DVIP is a 501c nonprofit organization that serves the same eight counties as RVAP, with a focus on survivors of domestic violence.

Hansen said funding played no role in the university’s decision to transition RVAP’s services.

Brewer wrote the operating budget for RVAP comes from state, federal, and local grants. He wrote the UI funds two full-time positions and provides office space and administrative support.

Funding from the UI covers about 20 percent of RVAP’s budget. The Undergraduate Student Government provides $50,000 and $127,000 from the university’s general education fund. The university also provides administrative services for RVAP. The rest comes from grants and support from the state. Brewer wrote that DVIP is guaranteed funding from the university and it is expected that all grants and contracts will go to DVIP.

While Brewer wrote it is expected that all grants and contracts that account for 80 percent of the RVAP’s budget will go to DVIP, it is not guaranteed. The grants will have to be reapplied for by DVIP and the city funding will have to be approved by respective city councils. As for donors, their funds are distributed at their own discretion.

Brown said they believe DVIP is not equipped with enough resources to support survivors of sexual assault at the same level as RVAP due to losing the community of workers that there’s not enough funding to support it.

“It’s hard for me to believe that things are going to move as normal because you can’t offer the same services that we have if you’re not bringing the people over,” Brown said. “A disruption in service is going to happen.”

“I think that we’re definitely backsliding,” Ali said.

On Saturday, over 80 people gathered at the Pentacrest to protest the UI decision to dissolve RVAP. Among the protesters was Olivia Brown who helped organize the gathering.

A common theme among every person interviewed was concern for the survivors of sexual assault and the resources available to them in the future. Regardless of their belief that RVAP should stay or go under DVIP, every person said they want the survivors thought of first, and the need for assistance of survivors of sexual assault is growing.

According to the UI’s most recent Speak Out Iowa Survey in 2021, which is the most recent public survey recording sexual assault on campus, 16.6 percent of female students, 5.1 percent of male students, and 22.6 percent of transgender or gender non-conforming students have experienced a rape or an attempted rape.

According to the Center for Disease Control, over half of woman have experienced sexual violence along with one in three men in the U.S. Additionally, one in four women and one in 26 men have experienced a completed or attempted rape.

A common concern among people who’ve utilized RVAP’s services is that they adore the staff who help them. Gail Osborn, who lives in Washington County, told the DI she used RVAP’s services and said the staff from RVAP were vital in the support network she received.

“RVAP has created this community, a community of survivors of people going through the worst thing, the worst day of their lives,” Osborn said.

RELATED: UI to dissolve Rape Victim Advocacy Program, lay off staff members

Osborn said there is a disparity of workers helping survivors of sexual assault in rural areas and is worried people in these areas will have less support without the people at RVAP.

“There’s no going back from this once it’s fully done, and the lives that will be changed forever because of it are countless,” Osborn said.

Osborn said she was uncertain whether DVIP could bring that same community to victims of sexual assault that RVAP has achieved.

“The impact of not having advocates, especially such community support that RVAP has had over the years, that loss is going to be detrimental,” Osborn said. “It’s going to be felt throughout the community with the advocates that are left behind.”

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About the Contributors
Jack Moore
Jack Moore, News Editor
Jack Moore is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is from Cedar Rapids Iowa. Along with working at The Daily Iowan, Jack works for the University of Iowa's UI-REACH program as a Resident Assistant. UI-REACH is a program for students with learning, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities intended to provide support to these students throughout their college experience. Additionally, Jack is involved in Iowa City's live music scene as he plays bass for local Iowa City band "Two Canes."
Ava Neumaier
Ava Neumaier, Photojournalist
Ava Neumaier is a first-year student at the University of Iowa, majoring in English & Creative Writing. She was the Editor-in-Chief of her high school yearbook in New York, and has interned for a New York Times photographer. She enjoys taking pictures of performances and student life.