“I get woken up by her slapping me, and she said that we shouldn’t have had sex and her friends shouldn’t find out’, these are the opening words to Louis Theroux’s new documentary, The Night in Question. It’s a compelling opening and one that hits right at the heart of the subject. The documentary focuses on the problem of sexual assault in US colleges, deciding to take the approach of looking further into the accused rapist’s side of the story.
We mainly follow Saif Khan, a young man accused of raping a fellow female student at Yale. He is in the process of proving his innocence while hoping to continue his studies.
His version of events stand like this; Saif was at a party with the victim, where he said he never “witnessed her drinking”, they then attended a concert. At the concert, the victim vomited for the first time. Despite this, Saif claims she was not drunk just “buzzed”. They then continued flirting, and after midnight they walked back to the dorm where they both lived.
Saif recalls that when they got to her door, she said for him to stay by saying his name, and giving him an “expecting” tilt of the head. They then entered her room, where Saif said they had consensual sex during which she had vomited again. The next morning he woke to her slapping him, accusing him of rape.
Now, the victim’s side of the story follows the same path at the start of the night. She said that at the party she had a few strong drinks with some unknown liquor. She was very intoxicated and vomited a couple of times. She has very fuzzy memories from that night and doesn’t remember much after arriving back at the dorm. Her recollection is that she collapsed on the bed, and was aware that in the night Saif was manhandling her with her head hanging off the side of the bed. She then woke up the next morning confused and saw two used condoms.
When you hear Saif’s side of the story, you start to think that maybe he is telling the truth. He didn’t see her drinking, maybe she was just buzzed, and maybe she just regretted her decision. But, even just the thought of this makes my skin crawl as we watch further.
As Louis pokes and prods, using his famous interview technique to unveil further truths, Saif starts to come across as fake, and a bit manipulative. Louis interviews a former male friend of Saif where he stated Saif and him took part in a threesome with a woman, but Saif turned it into a very unpleasant experience. The former friend alleged that Saif was very rough, and the woman even had to use her safe word which she said she never usually does.
When Louis uncomfortably questions him about this, also showing him text messages he sent to his friends asking him to stalk the woman he allegedly raped, he became noticeably defensive, stating it was not his job to prove his innocence. However, it seems for many years it has been the woman’s job to prove hers.
I agree with the need for more conversations about sexual assault and consent, and a lot of these should be told from the victim’s point of view. They are the ones whose life has come tumbling down. However, a conversation works both ways, and in order to be transparent about the serious problem of sexual assault on college campuses, we also need to talk to the people who commit the crime.
In the end, all victims should be taken seriously. Everyone, no matter what they were wearing or how drunk they were, deserves to be treated with respect, and in a way that does not harm their dignity. In my opinion, just from what Louis’s documentary reveals, Saif was in the wrong. Witnesses confirm the victim was intoxicated, and if she did not say yes and give consent, then she was raped. No matter how many “expecting” head tilts she may have given him.
Since colleges started taking sexual assault claims more seriously, I have seen a lot of comments online about people thinking it has become a witch hunt and a way to get back at men by some women. Some people think that women can now just wake up and regret their decision, so decide to cry rape. This angers me.
For many years women were not taken seriously, they were made to feel they were to blame if they were raped, and the accused got to live their life as if nothing had happened. Now that this has all started to change, people think this is the wrong course of action. Now that young men’s actions are being criticized they are quick to lash out, but women have had to defend their actions for decades in silence. So why shouldn’t we take their accusations seriously? According to self.com “sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Sexual assault is basically an umbrella term that includes sexual activities such as rape, fondling, and attempted rape.” and this is important. Any sexual contact without consent is rape, end of. So why does it seem people are still missing the idea of consent.
Louis’s take on this important issue may be controversial, but It’s still a very important documentary to watch, it shows a side we aren’t seeing much of at the moment. Most of the men featured in the documentary have been cleared of any criminal doing in the eyes of the law, however, their colleges are still investigating whether they are allowed to return. It also makes us look into a different aspect, even if a person hasn’t been found guilty in court, does it mean they have done no wrong? Would we say Jimmy Saville or the many others who were accused of sexual assault are innocent? common sense says no, with all the victims coming forward how could they be innocent. This documentary makes us look past the result In court, and really dissect the issue.
Many people have had problems with Louis’ direction of the story, but to me, this is what Louis does best. He does not focus on the victim, but questions the alleged criminal, asking why and how this could have happened. He sinks his teeth into the uncomfortable aspects people are scared to know. It’s a very thought-provoking documentary that I would recommend watching. Especially if you, like me, are a fan of King Louis.