Jennifer Gentile Long ’93 JD spends her days helping the legal community fight genderbiased violence. As director of AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, she heads a global project with a mission to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking and human trafficking cases by developing, evaluating and refining prosecution practices that increase victim safety and offender accountability. She credits her career choice to the community engagement opportunities that were presented to her while a student at Lehigh.
As head of AEquitas, Long currently provides case consultation and resources to prosecutors employed at the state, local and federal levels, as well as all branches of the U.S. military and the Department of Defense. She has also worked closely with allied justice system professionals representing several countries, including Liberia, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Israel, Uganda, Papua New Guinea and Kenya, where her work has included developing and participating in leadership institutes and training events for prosecutors and providing technical assistance and case consultation. She serves as an advisory committee member with the American Law Institute, an editorial board member with the Civic Research Institute for the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Reports and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center.
A Local Beginning
Though the reach of AEquitas is global, Long’s interest in using her talents for social good started on Bethlehem’s Southside. Volunteering at Turning Point, a shelter where victims of abuse and their children can find refuge, and New Bethany Ministries, a local homeless shelter, Long was exposed to the world of violence against women.
“Being out in the community taught me the dynamics and harm caused by child abuse and violence against women,” she says. “I wanted to make a difference and believed that I could do so most effectively by becoming a prosecutor specializing in these crimes.” Graduating with majors in English and East Asian Studies, Long notes that Lehigh provided her with an appreciation that the conditions surrounding any case will not always be ideal. In fact, they will rarely be flawless, but one cannot wait for perfection, she notes.
“One has to act, based on the best information available at the time action is required. Lehigh provided me with the analytical skills to identify the relevant information, and process it as accurately as possible and the courage to act. It also instilled a certain resilience in me so that I wasn’t defeated by failure, but rather used it to learn how to improve. It also instilled in me a responsibility to continue to improve, not to be satisfied with the status quo, but to search for ways to do things better. Finally, it taught me the value and power of persuading individuals to change attitudes and behaviors rather than relying upon edits, rules and regulations to effect change. This has helped me throughout my career as a prosecutor and in my current position, which brings our work throughout the U.S. and beyond.”
Long’s education, although not focused on gender-based violence or psychology, provided the academic and philosophical inspiration for her career choice. She learned critical thinking and reasoning and the value of action. After graduating from Lehigh, Long and her roommate headed to Colorado with the hope of working at a ski resort in Vail before attending law school. Not finding employment, she joined Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers). In 1994, she entered the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She graduated with a juris doctorate degree and a master’s degree in government administration from the Fels School of Government. Fresh out of law school, she landed what she calls “her dream job” at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office under Lynne Abraham. She worked her way up to the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, where she prosecuted child abuse, sexual assault and intimate partner violen.e.
“I was lucky to work with driven, smart, aggressive and ethical prosecutors who taught me to take hard cases and prosecute with a victim-centered, offender-focused approach.” After her tenure with the DA’s office, she went to work at a law firm in Bermuda and then a firm in Philadelphia before heading to Washington, D.C., where she worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Through the course of her work, Long stayed connected to work around child abuse, family violence and sexual assault through volunteer work with the Support Center for Child Advocates.
“Finally, I was able to return to work centered around the prosecution of genderbased violence, which was my priority, but this time, instead of serving on the front lines, I served those who were on the front lines prosecuting these crimes,” Long explained.
In 2004, Long became senior attorney and then director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women at the American Prosecutors Research Institute. In 2009, she co-founded AEquitas.
When not working or volunteering, Long makes family her priority. Many members of her family are Lehigh alumni, including her dad, Nick Gentile ’53; her brother, Mark Arendas ’77; her husband, Dan Long ’92; his brother, Joe Long ’88; and his father, Charles (Chuck) Long ’59.
“I literally spent my earliest years on campus,” Long adds. “My dad’s love, admiration and respect for Lehigh was infectious. He took us to football games at Taylor Stadium. I attended parents’ weekend events at my brother’s fraternity. We visited the campus often and walked through the libraries and Packer Chapel and on Mountaintop campus and the Hill. By the time I was considering colleges, my application to Lehigh seemed like a foregone conclusion. However, I almost made the most foolish decision of my life when I began resisting attending Lehigh because my dad and brother had attended it and I thought I should do something different. Thankfully, I remembered how much I admired them both and appreciated how lucky I was to have the opportunity to attend Lehigh. I have come to appreciate this opportunity more and more as time goes on.”
Long and her family continue to show their appreciation for an education that guides her well. Whether attending football games annually or going to events at Zoellner Arts Center, she is a constant ambassador, promoting the benefits of a Lehigh education. Long and her husband have two young boys, Jacob and Harry, whom she hopes will follow in their footsteps at Lehigh someday.
“I have an amazing family and a fulfilling job on an issue about which I am passionate, and my work has given me the opportunity to travel to many countries all over the world,” she says. “To anyone considering Lehigh, you will never regret it. You will be exposed to extraordinary faculty and peers who are some of the most genuine, hardworking, brilliant, motivated, creative, fun, loyal people you will ever meet. They will help you to succeed and make a future for yourself.”