CAS 2020-21 Outstanding Alumni award winner: Kit Gruelle ’12

Appalachian State University’s College of Arts and Sciences announces its 2020-21 Outstanding Alumni award winner as Kit Gruelle ’12. Gruelle is a survivor of domestic violence, who has worked as an advocate for battered women and their children for 33 years. She graduated from Appalachian with a B.S. in Sociology with a concentration in gender-based violence. 

“To say that Kit is determined and enthusiastic is an understatement. She lights up a room with her energetic personality. She is passionate about life, her family and about social justice issues,” as stated in her nominating letter.

Gruelle came to Appalachian as a non-traditional student, already having spent years working in the domestic violence movement and having made a name for herself across the state of North Carolina as a respected victims’ advocate. As a renowned community educator, Gruelle has trained scores of advocates, criminal justice professionals, health care providers, clergy, legislators, educators and other allied professionals on the complexities of domestic, sexual and family abuse. She has guest lectured at higher education institutions, medical and law schools, schools of social work and public heath organizations on violence against women and children.   

For the last twenty-one years, she has been a subject matter expert and trainer for California POST (Peace Officers Standards and Training), established by the Legislature in 1959 to set minimum selection and training standards for California law enforcement. With POST, she helps develop training films and curricula for first responders, public safety dispatchers and hostage/crisis negotiators. Gruelle has also served as an expert witness for battered women in both state and federal court.  

She is an advocate and one of the subjects of “Private Violence,” an intimate and compelling documentary on domestic abuse that premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and then on HBO in October 2014. It is still available for viewing on Amazon Prime. “Private Violence” examines the shocking nationwide epidemic of intimate partner violence, focusing on the struggles of survivors of abuse and the advocates who support them. Set in North Carolina, “Private Violence” follows Gruelle, a domestic violence survivor, as she helps other victims seek healing, justice and social change.

Regarding her role in the film, a nominator stated, "Kit would be the first to emphasize, the real heroes of the film are the brave and resilient women who survived a violent past and had the courage to tell their stories publically. Kit provided the intellectual content that gives the film such force and integrity."

An interview with Gruelle and director Cynthia Hill can be seen at, where Gruelle was quoted saying, “We’re so desensitized to violence in the United States that oftentimes women have to be beaten badly enough before our criminal justice system responds.”

In 2017, Gruelle co-authored with Dr. Elicka Peterson Sparks, professor of Criminal Justice, Department of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian, a textbook on gender-based violence, “Intimate Partner Violence: Effective Procedure, Response and Policy.” This book provides practical instruction for practitioners and laypeople responding to domestic violence, as well as, ideas for policymakers working to create solutions to this violence. Narratives by victims of intimate partner abuse provide a framework from which students and practitioners can assess and address problems of domestic abuse.

Her nominating letter stated, “She is an amazing person, no doubt, and we don’t try to take credit for all that she will do in the world. But she would probably be the first to credit Appalachian and the support of its faculty in helping her realize her dreams, not only of getting an education but of expanding her opportunities to make the impact on the world she has most wanted to make.”

Gruelle continues to work as an advocate, community educator and consultant across the country. Congratulations Kit Gruelle on this Outstanding award and on your continued advocacy and hard work.


About the CAS Outstanding Alumni Award
This award was instituted in 1998 to honor alumni who have distinguished themselves through their remarkable contributions to a profession, through their ability to provide leadership, through public service activities, through outstanding creative endeavors or through other accomplishments. To see previous winners, visit

About the Department of Sociology
The Department of Sociology offers a Bachelor of Arts and six Bachelor of Science concentrations (applied research methods; criminology; deviance and law; families and intimate relationships; gerontology; social inequalities; and individually designed, which requires departmental approval). The department also offers minors in sociology and gerontology, plus two online graduate certificates in gerontology and sociology. Learn more at

About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at

By Ellen G. Burnette
April 27, 2021

Kit Gruelle ’12, Sociology, is a survivor of domestic violence who has worked as an advocate for battered women and their children for 33 years. She is the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award winner for 2020-21. Image provided.
Published: Apr 27, 2021 11:44am