The Saifullah Khan sexual assault case raises a critical question regarding how rarely and hesitantly Yale students — and college students at a national level — will report instances of potentially criminal sexual misconduct to the police.
Jennifer Long, Chief Executive Officer of AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence, told the News that unfortunately it can feel as though specialized sexual violence training or even gender-based filing at police departments is “seen as a luxury rather than a necessity in these cases.”
The idea behind delaying a sexual assault trial is controversial on both sides of the courtroom. Long told the News that the greatest source of delay tends to come from the defense strategically holding up the case. She explained that these trials deal with highly traumatic crimes, but that delays can amplify that stress and undermine the victim’s willingness to continue working with the prosecution.
Long told the News that she does not want to “sugarcoat” the process of going through prosecution as a victim of sexual assault, and leveled that the main strategy of the defense in sexual assault trials is to discredit the victim. Still, she added, she believes that the process of seeking justice in a court of law empowers victims regardless of the outcome and, by extension, makes the reform process of the courts a crucial one. “The main reform really is making sure defense attorneys don’t ask for unjustified delays — there are already laws in place that should prevent that — and making sure prosecutors prepare and argue against continuances that are just designed to delay a case. Another area [for improvement] is training around witness intimidation and the nuances of witness intimidation, and ensuring the system is looked at before a case even happens, to make sure intimidation is prevented.”