Know My Name by Chanel Miller
In January of 2015, Chanel Miller woke up in a room next to a police officer. Her last memories were of attending a college party with her sister. When she asked the police officer what had happened, he was evasive. Finally, he told her that she had been found outside of the party by other college students: they were bicycling around campus when they discovered her and a man who was on top of her. They said it looked wrong". The policeman reported to her that the witnesses were very upset by what they had seen. Chanel was then administered a rape kit and sent on her way. It wasn’t until months later when Chanel was sitting at work, that she received a text message from her sister that would bring clarity about what had happened to her. Her sister told her that the man who had sexually assaulted her was on the news. She went online and saw the face of Brock Turner, who was being charged with her rape and assault. She read the news article and learned for the first time many details about her assault, and about Brock, her rapist. From learning about her own rape from the media to enduring the gut-wrenching trial process and dealing with the repercussions of becoming a household name, read on to learn about the strength and determination of Chanel: and how she survived the unimaginable repercussions of her assault at the hands of Brock Turner.
After reading the news article, Chanel learned the details of her assault for the first time. She learned that she was found outside of a fraternity house: half-naked and next to a dumpster. That Brock, who she learned was a Stanford student, had been caught sexually assaulting her by two Swedish students. One of which tackled him to the ground after he tried to escape and a random bystander called the police. She was horrified. She was more horrified to read the comments under the article. The larger number of comments weren’t condemning Brock or offering her support: the vast majority seemed to be on his side. As time wore on, and more articles came out, she watched herself become nameless, as she was referred to as the “victim”. The media became fixated on what she was drinking, with graphic details about what she was wearing when she was found. Brock, conversely, was humanized. Articles talked about how he was a Stanford student, and an Olympic swimmer. It seemed everyone who knew him had a positive review about him to share with the media, including their concerns about what a shame it was that he was being ostracized and punished.
When the police asked Chanel if she would like to press charges, she decided to do it. However, she wanted to protect everyone around her from the painful knowledge she had been raped: so she decided to lead a double life. Her boyfriend and family stayed in the dark about the rape, while her sister knew but was sworn to secrecy. She was referred to as “Emily Doe ', and her name was kept out of the media entirely. After struggling in silence for 10 days, she made the difficult decision to tell her family and her boyfriend the truth. They supported her. She opted to keep everyone else in the dark, telling only her boss when she left her job because of the stress of the trial.
The trial for Chanel’s rape lasted roughly three years. Three exhausting, baffling, and stressful years. Trail dates were constantly canceled and moved. Chanel was forced to relive the details of her assault every time a trial date came up. When she was actually at the courthouse, she was questioned by people like a doctor hired by the Turner’s for $10,000 who was an “expert on blackouts” and said that in her state, she should have been able to give consent. Turner’s lawyers tried to confuse her with senseless questions, and she was scrutinized from every angle. Their goal was to make her seem like an unreliable witness. Chanel had a brilliant lawyer, a well-executed rape kit by exceptional nurses, and multiple witnesses. In spite of Brock’s best efforts, all 12 people on the jury unanimously voted that he was guilty. She won.
In spite of her win, the person who would determine what happened to Brock was the judge. Even after Chanel stated what she thought his punishment should be (jail time and rehabilitation), and read a moving victim impact statement to the courthouse that brought many to tears with details of the attack and its aftermath, the judge had apparently been influenced by media coverage. Brock was sentenced to six months in county jail, three years of probation, and he had to register as a sex offender. In the end, Brock walked free from the county jail after only serving for three months on September 2nd, 2016.
After the trial, Chanel was contacted by BuzzFeed. They wanted her to send her victim impact statement. She sent it over, certain no one would be interested in reading it. She was wrong, there were quite a few people who saw it: roughly 15 million. It was published in newspapers like The Guardian, The New York Times, and discussed on news networks like CNN. Even the vice president Joe Biden read it and sent her an encouraging letter, praising her for her courage. Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber heard about the case and created a petition to get the judge who presided over Chanel’s case voted out of his position. The petition needed at least 90,000 signatures. It received 95,000. He was removed.
Though Chanel received a lot of public support, privately, she still struggled with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted and the stress of her trial. She couldn’t sleep because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to fend off an attacker if she were unconscious. She became disassociated. Something seemingly routine like going to the doctor for a pap smear became traumatic as it triggered panic and memories of her assault. Parties put her on guard and give her anxiety. She grew up close to Stanford’s campus, and always associated the school with positive memories like taking extracurricular classes. Now, in wake of all that happened with her trial, she thinks of how Stanford refuses to change their policies to prevent sexual assault and to support survivors.
Healing is not a linear process. Though Chanel trudges through the aftermath of her assault, she has also found a support system she is grateful for, and activities that empower her. Her family created a nest of safety she could escape to when everything in the world felt too overwhelming. Her boyfriend Lucas took her on a trip to Indonesia to help her escape the grimness of the trial. Most importantly, she supports herself. She decided to enroll in a printmaking class at Rhode Island School of Design, where she and her classmates discovered her incredible talent for printmaking. She realized that though she felt lonely and challenged, she could still create something beautiful, and that reminder helped her to press on. She also discovered she loved performing stand up comedy, and that she was good at it. She liked it because being on stage reminded her of times when she felt free and untethered, and because one stage, no one could silence her from speaking her mind: there was no judge to speak for her, and no lawyers to twist her words.
Many survivors of sexual assault feel isolated by their experiences: especially if they do not have someone to reach out to who they feel comfortable talking about the details about it. Chanel certainly felt isolated. Activist groups began reaching out to her, and suddenly instead of feeling alone, Chanel realized she could be part of something that helped survivors like herself. Through her work, she realized that her experiences at her trial, though horrifying, were also shared by many other survivors of sexual assault. Lawyers would often find subtle ways to blame the survivor, asking them “what they were wearing” and other leading questions designed to implicate them as perpetrators in their own rape. While survivors are sometimes blamed for their assaults, rapists are often given free passes or, like Brock, humanized at the cost of the people they hurt. This knowledge made her feel less alone and reminded her of what she needed to fight against. She was also comforted through awareness of other survivors who had fought back: women like Christine Blasey Ford who very publically testified against Brett Kavanaugh. She even learned of the impact of her Victim Impact statement: a 16-year-old who had been assaulted got out of bed after staying there for 2 years. Her work in conjunction with other activists and survivors has been substantial: she has managed to change the legal definition of rape in California, and mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who rapes an unconscious person. Her work shows that though the media chose to portray her as a nameless victim, she is a survivor.
In January of 2015, Chanel Miller woke up in a room next to a police officer. Her last memories were of attending a college party with her sister. She was told she had been sexually assaulted. Later, her experience became public knowledge when the media picked up a story about Brock Turner, and she realized that he was her rapist. From learning about her own rape from the media to enduring the gut-wrenching trial process and dealing with the repercussions of becoming a household name, read on to learn about the strength and determination of Chanel: and how she survived the unimaginable repercussions of her assault at the hand of Brock Turner.
About the Author
Chanel Miller is an American writer based in San Francisco, CA. She became known when she was sexually assaulted on the campus of Stanford University.
Her victim impact statement became viral and was published on Buzzfeed. In court documents, she was referred to as Emily Doe until 2019, when she published her memoir. Her efforts have encouraged a national discussion in the USA about the treatment of sexual assault cases and victims by college campuses and court systems.
She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara at the College of Creative Studies, where she graduated with a degree in literature in 2014.
On the evening of 2015, she accompanied her sister to Kappa Alpha fraternity party at Stanford University. Two Stanford graduate students found her being raped by Brock Turner. She was unconscious and drunk. The two men who found her pulled her away from Brock Turner. He was arrested and indicted on five sexual assault charges. He pleaded not guilty. In 2016, he was sentenced to six months in prison.
Miller wrote a victim impact statement which was published on Buzzfeed. The New York Times republished the statement. She was later interviewed on 60 minutes and published a memoir, Know My Name, The book is one of the top ten books of 2019 by the Washington Post. It is on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2019.
Her story sparked a national discussion about rape on college campuses. In 2016, Glamour named her woman of the year for changing the conversation about sexual assault. Her impact statement has been read over 11 million times. Time listed