Take Back the Archive is a public history project created by UVa faculty, students, librarians, and archivists. It is meant to preserve, visualize, and contextualize the history of rape and sexual violence at the University of Virginia, honoring individual stories and documenting systemic issues and trends.

Here you will find documents, images, artifacts, articles, ephemera, and survivor stories. The nearly 2,000 items span the entire period of the university’s history, but concentrate mainly on the period from 1950-2015. They document not only incidences of sexual violence at UVa but the culture of the university surrounding rape, assault, and women’s and LGBTQ rights, and the intersection of sexual violence with race and racism. You will also find here the catalyst for this archive: the article “A Rape on Campus,” published in Rolling Stone in November 2014. Although later retracted, the article—and the public outcry that followed--prompted months of investigations and soul-searching that generated new university policies and, to some extent, altered attitudes about sexual violence at UVa. This archive seeks to document the long history of sexual violence that preceded the publication of the Rolling Stone article; the article itself; and the aftermath, which forced UVa into the national conversation about rape on campus taking shape at the time.

Our main goal is to document the occurrence and climate of sexual violence at UVa. But we also hope our application of digital humanities tools like Omeka and Neatline to this project can help establish a national model for college and university communities wishing to memorialize, historicize, interpret, confront, and end sexual violence on campus.

Administrative Timeline

Expulsions. Vigils. Task forces. Policies. Protests. Excuses. This timeline charts administrative responses to reports of sexual violence from 1824, five years after the University’s founding, through 2015, in the aftermath of the Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus.”

#POSTERS: Events and Campaigns Relating to Sexual Violence at the University of Virginia


Created for Take Back the Archive, the #POSTERS exhibit showcases event and campaign posters related to sexual violence at the University of Virginia. Posters lend a visual dimension to the landscape of sexual violence, while drawing attention to efforts by the University community to combat sexual violence. Through the growth of social media, hashtags (#) have become a popular form of organization, so #POSTERS seeks to engage with popular culture tby utilizing hashtags to organize the exhibit. Some of the hashtags are ones that were actually used to publicize the events or campaigns featured, while others were created for the purpose of this exhibit. Once the viewer clicks on a poster, a larger version of the poster will appear with links to relevant articles and websites. Click around and enjoy exploring! 

IRIS: The History of Feminist Publication

Iris_24_Fall Winter 1990.pdf

IRIS began in the fall of 1980 as a 12-page newsletter for the Women's Studies Program at UVA. It soon developed into a biannual 72-page journal for women across the country. Over the years, it has addressed topics ranging across a wide variety of women's issues, from pornography to women in southern culture, to rape, to racial identity. Nonetheless, it remains culturally engaged with relevant art, fiction, and poetry, representing a unique mixed mode which combines political publication with literary magazine.

The Language of Sexual Assault

A provocative way to understand evolving attitudes towards sexual violence is through the vicissitudes of the language people use to talk about it. This exhibit maps the frequency over time of key descriptive words and phrases pertaining to sexual violence, in The Cavalier Daily student newspaper. The changing occurrence of terms such as "survivor," "scandal," and even "rape" is often surprising and strongly suggestive of trends in thinking about sexual crimes, which tend ever more towards a humanistic focus upon their objects and an empirical focus on classification.