RVA History

Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) has been providing crisis intervention for sexual assault victims since 1974 in Chicago.

RVA was founded by Dr. Natalie A. Stephens, an OB/GYN at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and 10 medical and nursing students and other staff. They had witnessed too many victims leaving the emergency room in an emotionally worsened state than when they arrived, and they set out to provide victims with the support necessary to start recovering. Decades later, RVA remains true to its founding principles and the following mission:

Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the healing and empowerment of sexual assault survivors through non-judgmental crisis intervention counseling, individual and group counseling, and medical and legal advocacy in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. RVA provides public education and institutional advocacy in order to improve the treatment of sexual assault survivors and to effect positive change in policies and public attitudes toward sexual assault.

“RVA gave me the tools I needed to heal.”


RVA Client

For 12 years, RVA was run entirely by volunteers. In 1986, the agency hired its first executive director. RVA currently employs 18 staff at our three community-based offices and our main office downtown.  Volunteers remain key to RVA’s ability to offer quality, 24-hour services; at present, 185 volunteer advocates are key to RVA’s 24- hour crisis intervention in 14 Chicago area hospitals. RVA serves over 1800 survivors and their loved ones annually, and tens of thousands more people through our public education and professional training.  Over 90% of RVA’s clients are women and girls.  RVA recognizes the diversity of Chicago and is committed to being accessible for services, employment and volunteer opportunities to all regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability and economic status.

Delivery of these services makes RVA one of the most comprehensive crisis intervention programs for rape victims in Chicago, and the only rape crisis center in Chicago that is a full-service agency with the single focus of sexual violence. RVA will serve anyone — at no cost to the victim — who seeks treatment for sexual violence at one of our hospitals. And RVA’s advocacy efforts do not stop at the individual level; the experience and information gained from providing direct services informs and strengthens our participation in institutional change.