TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault
I knew Chanel Miller before she revealed herself to be the survivor of a sexual assault at the hand of Stanford student, Brock Turner.
Nobody earns the right to rape. It is still rape when he is a good swimmer.Miller 249
I knew her from her anonymous victim impact statement published on BuzzFeed after the measly sentence that Brock Turner earned (six months; he got out early for “good behavior”).
I knew her because her experience is every woman’s experience with sexual assault as well as sexual harassment.
I didn’t widely share my own story until the #MeToo movement. Many women didn’t; but, many of us have one.
A victim is also the smiling girl in a green apron making your coffee, she just handed you your change. She just taught a class of first-graders. She has her headphones in tapping her foot on the subway. Victims are all around you.Miller 252
I was not assaulted, but one night I was drugged. If not for my friends, it’s not difficult to imagine what would have happened. We were out, socializing, laughing, feeling safe because we were amongst each other. Nevertheless, someone managed to slip something into my drink. A few sips in and I felt dizzy and feverish and asked my friend to take me outside. I wasn’t able to stand, everything was out of focus and I got sick to my stomach. My friend, a nurse, had to practically carry me to her car. Her boyfriend told me later that I had only had one drink according to my tab at the bar; the bartender didn’t charge my card and gave it to my friend’s boyfriend for safe keeping. My friend got me home, where I continued to be sick. Eventually, the drug left my system, leaving me convulsing — thankfully in my own bed, with my best friend sitting on the edge with me the whole time. She took my dog out for me and stayed with me until I felt normal again and was able to sleep safely.
The sad thing is, this is a story with a happy ending. I was safe. Many stories don’t end this way.
Chanel’s story didn’t. She, too, went to a party with friends and her younger sister. She was a recent college grad with a new job. She does not remember blacking out at the party, but she does remember waking up in the campus security office where they shuffled her over to a rape clinic.
It wasn’t until halfway through her exam she realized what was happening — that she was in the clinic because she was sexually assaulted. Because of two Swedish students riding by the dumpster where Turner assaulted Miller, because they interrupted Turner . . . Chanel made it to the campus security office. The students believed she was a victim of assault.
In the aftermath of the realization of what happened to her, Chanel struggled to keep her head above water. This book — Know My Name — is the story of how she survived the aftermath of her assault.
Miller remained anonymous until the fall of 2019, right before her book hit shelves. Before this, the public knew her as Emily Doe. Miller writes about her struggle to compartmentalize her identity as Chanel and her identity as Emily.
Emily lived inside a tiny world, narrow and confined. She didn’t have any friends, appeared only occasionally to go to the courthouse, police station, or make calls in the stairwell. I did not like her fragility, how quietly she spoke and seemed to know nothing. I knew she was hungry for nourishment, to be acknowledged and cared for, but I refused to recognize her needs. I did not want to learn more about the court system, refused therapy. You don’t need it, I told her. In the beginning I was good at keeping the selves separate. You could never be able to detect that I was suffering. But if you looked closely enough, cracks appeared.Miller 53
Her story also exposes the injustice and unfairness of the current system in place for survivors/victims of sexual assault.
When I’d been assigned a DA, I thought the letters stood for defense attorney. District attorney . . .Brock has a defense attorney. I thought, But I need the defense, self-defense, to protect me from him.Miller 46
Additionally, the way in which the media and social networking operate now exposed Miller to extended trauma.
The media was no help. They counted my drinks and counted the seconds Brock could swim two hundred yards, topped the article with a picture of Brock wearing a tie; it could’ve doubled as his LinkedIn profile. I wanted to trim all the fat, all these distractions, to show you the meat of the story.Miller 51
My DA would later tell me women aren’t preferred on juries of rape cases because they’re likely to resist empathizing with the victim, insisting there must be something wrong with her because that would never happen to me. I thought of mothers who had commented, My daughters would never . . . which made me sad because comments like that did not make her daughter any safer, just ensured that if the daughter was raped, she’d likely have one less person to go to.Miller 152
Miller’s descriptions of how the assault impacted every crevice of her life are at once heartbreaking, beautiful, raw, and staggering.
The assault harmed me physically, but there were bigger things that got broken. Broken trust in intuitions. Broken faith in the place I thought would protect me.Miller 296
Despite everything, despite the horrors of her experience, Miller found ways to be creative, loving, and strong throughout her ordeal. She writes about her studies in printing at the Rhode Island School of Design, how her boyfriend supported her and loved her, and how her victim impact statement came to be.
The book becomes a synthesis of Emily and Chanel. Across pages, Miller establishes how both Emily and Chanel are a part of her and how once she realized that, she could rise strong.
I did nothing wrong.
I am strong.
I have a voice.
I told the truth.Miller 101
I had done the impossible, showed up. Those who watched me cry on the stand might have perceived me as fragile, but I believed it to be the quiet beginning of my strength. I did what I’d never thought I could do, had somehow been spit out on the other side, still far from the finish line, but alive (121).Miller 121
You have to hold out to see how your life unfolds, because it is most likely beyond what you can imagine. It is not a question of if you will survive this, but what beautiful things await you when you do. I had to believe her, because she was living proof. Then she said, Good and bad things come from the universe holding hands. Wait for the good to come.Miller 138
No is the beginning and end of this story. I may not know how many yards away from the house I peed, or what I’d eaten earlier on that January day. But I will always know this answer. I was finally answering the question he’d never bothered to ask.Miller 171
I am not Brock Turner’s victim. I am not his anything. I don’t belong to him.Miller viii
I had a voice, he stripped it, left me groping around blind for a bit, but I always had it. I just used it like I never had to use it before. I do not owe him my success, my becoming, he did not create me. The only credit Brock Turner can take is for assaulting me, and he could never even admit to that.Miller 289
Out of her pain comes Miller’s commentary on how our society maintains a flawed view of women’s equality and how we treat survivors/victims of sexual assault. She unflinchingly calls out the justice system, the media, public attitude, gender norms, and the way we raise our children to treat one another.
I didn’t know that money could make the cell doors swing open. I didn’t know that if a woman was drunk when the violence occurred, she wouldn’t be taken seriously. I didn’t know that if he was drunk when the violence occurred, people would offer him sympathy. I didn’t know that my loss of memory would become his opportunity. I didn’t know that being a victim was synonymous with not being believed.Miller 23
It should have been enough to say, I did not want a stranger touching my body. It felt strange to say, I have a boyfriend, which is why I did not want Brock touching my body. What if you’re assaulted and you didn’t already belong to a male? Was having a boyfriend the only way to have your autonomy respected? Later I’d read suggestions that I cried rape because I was ashamed. I had cheated on my boyfriend. Somehow the victim never wins.Miller 66
Women are raised to work with dexterity, to keep their nimble fingers ready, their minds alert. It is her job to know how to handle the stream of bombs, how to kindly decline giving her number, how to move a hand from the button of her jeans, to turn down a drink. When a woman is assaulted, one of the first questions people ask is, Did you say no? This question assumes that the answer was already yes, and that it is her job to revoke the agreement. To defuse the bomb she was given. But why are they allowed to touch us until we physically fight them off? Why is the door open until we have to slam it shut?Miller 83
In that courtroom, my identity had been reduced to something in the category of “other”.Miller 195
When men were upset, lonely, or neglected, we [women] were killedMiller 219
Erasure is a form of oppression, the refusal to see.Miller 285
I had to share so many of Miller’s words in this post, because I believe we all need to hear from her. Not only does she exquisitely explain what it is like from the vantage point of a survivor/victim, a minority, and a woman; she used her voice to change the system! Because of her victim impact statement, legislation regarding how courts in California handle sexual assault cases changed. Hearing her story and seeing the impact her voice had on the world at large is a reminder to me — and I hope to you — that you matter.
You have a voice.
This book does not have a happy ending. The happy part is there is no ending, because I’ll always find a way to keep going.Miller 325