April 2024 

To: Barbara Wilson, President of the University of Iowa 

      Sarah Hansen, Vice President for Student Life 

From: The Council on the Status of Women of the University of Iowa  

The mission of the Council on the Status of Women is to ensure an environment that supports the rights of all women at The University of Iowa and the state. We are committed to removing barriers to women’s learning, professional growth, creativity, and employment. Sexual assault, and a lack of support on campus for survivors, present barriers to these commitments. As such, the Council strongly opposes the University’s decision to transition the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) for various reasons. 

First, we are concerned about the lack of transparency in the decision to dissolve the Rape Victim Advocacy Program at The University of Iowa. This lack of transparency and learning about this decision from a campus-wide email undoubtedly negatively affected RVAP clients and our students going through a Title IX or criminal investigation. University decision-makers should have informed RVAP staff of the transition in advance so they could assure their clients that ongoing support would be available to them.   

Second, considerable research, including our own student sexual misconduct survey data, finds that students infrequently seek formal campus support after being sexually victimized. The RVAP was a vital first point of contact for victims of sexual assault, to talk to a confidential resource before deciding whether or how to engage the university Title IX process or contact law enforcement. Delinking the University affiliation of RVAP will create additional barriers for students seeking university services after experiencing sexual violence on our campus.   

Third, the closure of RVAP contradicts the University of Iowa’s mission statement, specifically its commitment to bringing learning and discovery into the service of the people of the state of Iowa as a commitment to improving lives through education and health care. RVAP has provided critical, life-saving intervention services and sexual violence prevention education to community members in compliance with the University’s mission.     

To be clear, we are not opposed to DVIP as an organization. We believe that DVIP is a vital resource for the community and for survivors of domestic violence. Instead, our points of concern are related to (1) the lack of transparency around this decision, (2) barriers for survivors on campus accessing vital services, (3) the inconsistency of this decision with the university’s mission, and (4) the university’s rationale for closing RVAP being based on a distinction between serving the local community and serving UI students.  

The Council’s primary concern is for survivors of sexual assault and violence. With such little information made public, the campus community is questioning how students, staff, and faculty will continue to access the services RVAP has provided on campus for the last 51 years. 

In moving forward, we would like to know how the University will support victims of sexual assault at the University of Iowa. Specifically, we request that DVIP commits to having sexual assault advocates embedded at the university and that the university commits to providing space on campus for these advocates to have a visible presence.   

We also urge the University to convene a stakeholder group of affected parties to discuss the transition of RVAP to DVIP and assure continuity of services. Stakeholders should include the members of the Student Advisory Committee on Sexual Misconduct (SACSM), the UISG safety officer, advocates from RVAP and WRAC, Title IX and Gender Equity staff. Administrators responsible for the decision to move RVAP off campus should also participate in this conversation. 

Finally, we ask the University to publicly share why this decision was made, who was part of the decision-making process, where funding will come from to maintain services, what the process for transferring that funding will look like, and whether the decision makers considered the impact of the decision on affected students and community members. If the decision makers did not consider student impact, they owe the campus and broader community an apology. 

As a public institution, the University of Iowa must uphold its commitments to students, staff, faculty, and the broader state of Iowa. Removing, negatively altering, or otherwise ending vital services aiding survivors of sexual assault and violence diverges from the University’s mission and values. The Council on the Status of Women calls on the University to ensure these services are protected.  


The excutive committee received the following reply on Friday, April 26, 2024 from Sarah Hensen, Vice President for student life. As stated in our initial letter, we intend to invite them to speak with us directly at a monthly meeting. 

To members of the Council on the Status of Women,

Thank you for your recent communication and concern regarding the transition of services from the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP). I am responding on behalf of President Wilson. We appreciate your concern and want to assure you that our commitment to supporting victim-survivors of sexual violence remains unwavering. The purpose of this transition is to enhance services and outcomes for all those served by these organizations.

In her email sent April 16, 2024, to CSW chair Danielle Sigler, Maria Bruno, Psy.D, executive director of belonging and inclusion, expressed a desire and willingness to engage directly with the members of the Council on the Status of Women. Her intention is to address questions and concerns openly and honestly. While the process is not meant to be opaque, some details are still being finalized and we are committed to sharing information as we are able. While Dr. Bruno has not received a response to her email as of this writing, she remains open to visiting with CSW.

It is important to first emphasize that members of the University of Iowa community – students, faculty, and staff – will continue to have access to services that have historically provided by RVAP. The university will contract with DVIP to ensure campus-based victim services support remains available. The university will maintain its level of financial support and allocate space on campus for these critical services. We will work with shared governance leadership to ensure the advocacy service staff members are in areas accessible and welcoming to faculty, staff, and students.

The transition will not affect the role of advocates in the Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct. Commitment to prevention efforts outlined in the university’s Anti-Violence Plan will continue through a collaboration between the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC) and RVAP/DVIP.

The transition aims to provide a more holistic and simplified experience for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. DVIP will focus on supporting domestic violence survivors, while sexual assault support services will continue under a new structure. These services will be centralized in one community organization that serves an eight-county region.

The difficulty of RVAP’s ability to meet their mission while embedded within the UI has been repeatedly discussed since they became a UI department around 2011. This became ever more evident when their territory expanded to 8 counties in 2014. As additional background, we are attaching the 2022 RVAP Program Review, with reviewers selected by the RVAP leadership team, which specifically notes the difficulties in establishing relationships in the counties, particularly as a UI entity. Also attached is a letter sent to CSW leadership on April 15, 2024, by Diane Funk, former RVAP director, and co-signed by former directors and board members, articulating why this change is essential at this time, for the health of RVAP, and most of all, for victims of sexual violence at Iowa, in the community, Johnson County, and the other seven counties served by RVAP.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to Dr. Bruno or me.


Sarah Hansen

Vice president for student life