Once known as Emily Doe, sexual assault survivor Chanel Miller published a searing memoir in September called, Know My Name. Miller had written an anonymous letter to Brock Turner, the man who had sexually assaulted her behind a dumpster at Stanford, which had gone viral after she had read it at his sentencing.
Her new memoir details her emotional trauma, her reaction to her attacker’s short sentence and her humiliation, shame and rage. After four years known only as a victim at the forefront of a well-known story concerning an unfairly handled rape case, Miller revealed her identity, citing it as an, “immense relief,” to an NPR reporter.
Know My Name is as powerful and distressing as the 12-page essay that had first centered the case, yet it is evident that it explains how various institutions of power had failed and prevented Miller from dealing with the ever-present trauma of her sexual assault.
At one point in the memoir, Miller had recalled the moment she had sworn an oath, to tell the truth. “I do” she had written, “Words I thought I’d speak first at my wedding, not my rape trial.”
Brock Turner, Miller’s assailant had been interrupted mid-assault by two graduate students and was convicted of multiple felonies. Judge Aaron Persky of the Santa Clara Superior Court had sentenced Turner to six months of jail with Turner only serving 90 days. Persky had referred to Turner’s good character and bright future as a swimmer at a nationally-accredited college, as the primary reason for Turner’s lenient sentence.
“I spoke with conviction. I felt that it was working. I felt that it was everything I could have done. So I felt relief and pride and now thought the hardest parts were behind me, but they weren’t. When the sentence was announced, the immediate reaction I had was humiliation,” said Miller when interviewed by a reporter from NPR.
Miller said that she had struggled to tell friends and family of what had happened, not even allowing them from joining her in courtroom proceedings, citing her hope of protecting the people she loved. Miller hadn’t told her parents right away either, and recalled the initial conversation with her mother.
“I just sort of bent over and was unable to speak. And at that point, my mom stood up and she just held me and we both cried,” said Miller. “Because I don’t think you can assign words to that initial experience. I think you need to feel it.”
However, when Turner’s sentencing occurred, Miller had eventually allowed some relatives and friends to accompany her in the courtroom but regretted it when Turner’s short sentencing had been read, feeling humiliated and isolated.
Persky, the judge that had ultimately decided on Turner’s short sentence would no doubt feel his actions further on. Just last year, voters in Santa Clara County in California had recalled Persky from the bench, prompting Persky’s firing from his former job as a girl’s tennis coach at a local high school in the Bay Area.
California lawmakers have also passed a measure ensuring tougher sentences for defendants convicted of committing sexual assault towards unconscious victims.
Miller has said she’s ready to leave her anonymous persona behind, still planning on using the lessons she’s learned through her trauma, resolving to teach herself self-compassion and to, “listen to the voices that were supporting me.”