Title: Know My Name: A Memoir
Author: Chanel Miller
Date Read: February 26, 2020
You probably don’t know who Chanel Miller is. For a long time, she was known as Emily Doe, or more memorably, the rape victim of Brock Turner, the Stanford University swimmer.
The case was internationally publicized for many reasons: Turner was caught in the act of attempting to rape Miller while unconscious behind a dumpster; he was thwarted by two Swedish students who intervened and captured him when he attempted to run from the scene; there was public outrage at the lenient sentence given by a judge who was later recalled; and the internationally disseminated victim impact statement written by Miller resonated with victims of sexual assault the world over. Her statement can be found here.
Although Miller’s case preceded the #MeToo movement, her statement and Turner’s sentence became part of the intense debates around rape, sexism and sexual misconduct over the past years. In addition to the judge’s recall, a bill imposing mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases was also signed. Ms. Miller’s statement was read aloud on CNN and on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Miller is a talented writer and I loved her memoir. She writes for so many women who have similar stories of feeling powerless; for being blamed for unwanted sexual advances; and pinpoints the fear that women carry with them throughout the everyday world. Miller also reveals her ethnic background, thus also shedding new understanding of what she experienced and how she was perceived — as a woman of color, assaulted by a white man, trying to obtain justice in a courtroom presided over by a white male judge. Read about it here.
Throughout the trial, Turner was consistently referred to as the Stanford swimmer and we were repeatedly informed of his impressive swim times. Miller, was paradoxically diminished to what she had drunk, what she wore, and what she could not remember.
There were times now when I felt like crawling into the hole. In bed some nights, I stared up at it hovering above me. Wouldn’t it be easier? I took inventory; I was twenty-three, assaulted, unemployed, my only accomplishment being a nameless body in the local paper. When I thought of my future, I saw nothing. I wanted to stop.(Miller, p. 148-9)
It is time to know Chanel Miller, and all the nameless victims she writes for. A must read memoir.
You will find society asking you for the happy ending, saying come back when you’re better, when what you say can make us feel good, when you have something more uplifting, affirming. This ugliness was something I never asked for, it was dropped on me, and for a long time I worried it made me ugly too… But when I wrote the ugly and painful parts into a statement, an incredible thing happened. The world did not plug up its ears, it opened itself to me.