If a woman got raped on campus at the University of North Texas, she would need to leave campus and find a hospital before she could get evidence collected on her sexual assault. The campus’s student health center doesn’t have what is commonly known as a rape kit.
One group of students is trying to change that, though. Four young women are at the helm of a Change.org petition asking UNT to reconsider its policy and bring rape kits to campus. Students Melina Padron, Dexia Smith, Tiffany Contessa and Sabrina Ortiz all say this would ensure fairer treatment for victims of sexual assault.
“The closest women’s center is about 5 miles away,” the petition says, “but in case of an emergency the chances of transportation to the center or hospital at such a critical time are very slim.”
A UNT spokesperson told USA Today that the campus simply can’t afford to pay for rape kits, and isn’t equipped to handle “sexual trauma.” The university provides free transportation to a hospital, but says that, like other universities in the area, it shouldn’t need to get the certification to administer rape kits.
The costs of certification and rape kits are in fact high. But rape kits can be important in sexual assault cases for re-opening an otherwise “cold” case. Newsweek reports that “Since the rape-kit testing was completed in 2003, the NYPD has seen its arrest rate for rape increase dramatically, from 40 percent to 70 percent of reported cases, and there are increased numbers of prosecutions and convictions for rape.” They can also help a victim give hard evidence in a case, even if she doesn’t want to face her assailant.
Campuses often struggle with how to best serve sexual assault victims. A survey released last week found that ninety percent of universities have some kind of sexual assault awareness activities — but when it comes to actionable steps to prevent rape or serve victims, colleges perform much worse. Only 9.7 percent of schools, for example, give free emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault.