SGA works to provide rape kits


Halle Keighton

Photo by Halle Keighton | The Appalachian

Nicole Caporaso

Rape kits are not available on campus, and to the knowledge of Dr. Bob Ellison, Director of Health Services, they never have been.

Photo by Halle Keighton  |  The Appalachian
Photo by Halle Keighton | The Appalachian

According to, a rape kit may also go by different monikers, such as a sexual assault evidence kit or a sexual assault evidence collection kit.

A rape kit, Ellison said, can also more accurately be called a “forensic exam.”

“Forensic examination includes a very careful interview of what happened, a very structured, detailed physical examination and evidence collection according to a specifically trained protocol,” he said. “DNA or hair samples might have to be collected, as well as vaginal or oral or rectal swabs – there’s just a variety of things. X-rays or photographs might be necessary, it depends on a case-by-case basis.”

Due to continued unavailability of rape kits on campus, Appalachian’s Student Government Association is now revisiting old legislation on the topic.

“We are currently working on resurrecting that legislation as we speak,” said Carson Rich, SGA president. “After a multiple number of forums and hearing that previous legislation had been written about rape kits, it was brought to our attention this is something the students really want, so we are looking into the feasibility of it.”

Currently, those in need of a rape kit can go to Watauga Medical Center. Vicki Stevens, director of corporate communications for Appalachian Regional Healthcare system, said there are staff members available “24 hours, 7 days a week,” to perform a forensic exam.

According to a Nov. 14, 2002 article of The Appalachian, legislation passed in both the Faculty Senate and the SGA to make rape kits available through Health Services. However, in the 12 years since, that has not happened.

“It is an extraordinary process that must be done correctly and frequently enough to maintain an expertise,” Dr. Ellison said. “The process is done at the hospital for the entire community because there are needs beyond the Appalachian campus for this service.”

Health care practitioners who would perform these examinations must be SANE-certified, which stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Ellison said.

Ellison said he does not believe the physical examination process should necessarily be made available by Health Services.

The possible revival of SGA’s prior legislation on making rape kits available through Health Services comes at an interesting time for Appalachian. Rape Culture Awareness Week on campus is currently be held Nov. 17-21.

“I think the conversation is extraordinarily important, students want access to high quality care and services, which is something we at Health Services would agree with,” Ellison said. “But the service is available close and locally and it would not be in best interest to duplicate those services here.”

Story: Nicole Caporaso, Senior News Reporter

Photo: Halle Keighton, Intern Photographer