Chanel Miller Wants You to Know Her Name

“Survivors will not be limited, labeled, boxed in, oppressed. We will not be isolated. We have had enough.”   

 

 

When someone is sexually assaulted, the name of the perpetrator spreads like wildfire. In terse whispers among friends, in bold headlines on front-page news, on Snapchat stories and Instagram posts. A quick Google search uncovers countless articles detailing the assault, dated pictures of the attacker, and a flood of comments condemning their actions. Yet, in the uncovering of the identity of the assailant, another identity is simultaneously withheld; that of the survivor. 

So is the case with Chanel Miller. 

Known for years under the pseudonym Emily Doe, Chanel Miller first stood before her sexual assaulter, Brock Turner, in 2016, reading an impact statement heard around the world. Directly addressing the defendant, she recounted the night of the assault, the aftermath, and the strength she’s summoned despite the ongoing injustice and pain. Her words resonated with millions, especially fellow survivors of sexual assault. An outpouring of love and support praised “Emily Doe” for her honesty and bravery. Still, the public had no idea who they were addressing. That is, until September 24th, 2019, when Chanel Miller released Know My Name: A Memoir

 

 

To appreciate the significance of Miller’s publication, let’s briefly unpack the details of the case. In January of 2015, 22-year-old college graduate Chanel Miller attended a frat party with her sister at Stanford University. After drinking too much, she went outside to pee, then returned to the party. This is where her memory of the night cuts off. However, over the next few hours, Stanford University student Brock Turner would find the intoxicated and unconscious Miller and take advantage of her behind a dumpster, partially undressing her and penetrating her with his fingers. Miller was spotted by two Swedish men on bicycles who happened upon the assault. As Turner fled the scene, the men ran after him, pinning him down and holding him there until the police arrived. Miller would wake up in the hospital, covered in bruises and pine needles, with no memory of the assault. 

 

 

In the months that followed, Miller learned the details of the assault and the identity of her assaulter. She no longer felt like Chanel Miller. She felt reduced to “a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster.” In court, despite three charges of felony sexual assault and a prosecutor’s recommendation for a six-year prison sentence, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in county jail. Due to the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011, Turner walked free after only serving three months. 

When justice isn’t fully served for a survivor of sexual assault, their identity is further buried. Many of their stories will end at “Emily Doe,” or “victim,” or “drunk girl behind a dumpster”. Unlike the countless articles published shortly after Miller’s assault which humanized Brock Turner, there is no discussion of the survivor’s childhood, or hobbies, or bright future. Their narrative is both written and concluded for them. That is, unless they rewrite it themselves. 

It is every survivors’ prerogative, understandably so,  to remain anonymous, to privately digest their identity separately from their assault. Thus, when a survivor chooses to step into the spotlight and acknowledge their identity within the scope of their assault, they are actively repossessing their story. Know My Name is a reclamation of a narrative, of power, and most importantly, of identity. 

 

 

As Chanel Miller steps up to the challenge, first in 2016 by sharing her impact statement and now by writing her memoir, she not only introduces us to her voice but the collective voice of sexual assault survivors. Her story, sadly, isn’t unique. However, her choice to come forward is. In this way, her bravery doesn't end on the pages of her memoir, but rather trickles into the lives of all who read it. Chanel empowers other survivors to take back their identity. Chanel shows us all the importance of listening to the emerging stories of sexual assault. Most importantly, Chanel urges us to see the entirety of the person behind the label, to recognize their identity beyond the limits of their assault. Chanel Miller wants us to know her name. 

Know My Name: A Memoir is already ranked #1 bestseller on Amazon, and you’d better believe I got a copy. To get yours, click here

To watch Chanel’s short film I Am With You, click here

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4