Miller in front of her artwork / Penguin Random House | Know My Name cover / Penguin Random House
Chanel Miller, for years after the Stanford sexual assault case, was known only as Emily Doe.
Even while anonymous, the 27-year-old writer and artist was subject to the prolific media attention that came with such a high profile court case — even being named one of Glamour’s Women of the Year in 2016.
The 2016 People v. Turner case sparked worldwide outrage for a number of reasons: the warped focus on Brock Turner’s swimming potential and the pitifully short six month sentence (of which only three months were served) among them.
Miller’s victim impact statement – scathing, brutal, articulate and insightful – went viral online. News channel presenters read portions of it live on television.
It was read in its entirety, between different members of Congress, on the floor of the House of Representatives in June 2016.
Translated, shared and absorbed millions of times over, Miller’s statement helped to stoke the public outcry against sexual misconduct and leniency for privileged perpetrators that would ramp up in 2017 with the #MeToo movement.
From the People v. Turner case also came changes to policy and legislation.
Assembly Bill 701 was amended in September 2016 to include digital penetration in the definition of rape.
California introduced a law that mandates a minimum of three years jail time for individuals charged with sexual assault of an inconscious or intoxicated person.
The county of Santa Clara voted that Judge Aaron Persky, who was criticised for leniency and bias towards Turner, be removed from the practice — the first successful recall in California since 1932.
Now, Miller is showing the world yet again the incredible power of language with Know My Name: A Memoir. Published by Viking Press (owned by Penguin Random House), Miller’s memoir will be released on September 24.
The cover, deep green with gold fractures, alludes to the Japanese pottery repair technique kintsugi.
Instead of trying to mask the cracks in broken pottery, kintsugi involves using gold lacquer to emphasise the unique seams in each once-broken piece. The reclamation of beauty, of wholeness after being broken is a touching metaphor for Miller’s own experience.
“In newspapers my name was “unconscious intoxicated woman”, ten syllables, and nothing more than that,” Miller wrote. “For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity.”
Her journey of rediscovery has been documented in Know My Name, which will “change the way we think about sexual assault forever,” says Venetia Butterfield, publisher at Penguin General.
As research, Miller read court transcripts and witness testimonies that had not been available to her at the time of the trial.
"When people read her book, they will be impressed with her. They will be convinced that Judge Persky and Stanford University behaved very badly,” commented Stanford law professor Michele Dauber.
But many of us are already convinced. We are already impressed.
The day I read Miller’s statement, my heart in my throat, I saw so many different faces to a then-faceless woman.
The protective woman who loves her sister something fierce, “You tried to use my own sister against me... You do not touch her.”
The compassionate woman who, even after so much trauma, has no desire for vengeance — only healing. “Right now your name is tainted, so I challenge you to make a new name for yourself, to do something so good for the world, it blows everyone away,” she said to Turner.
The appreciative woman who shows her gratitude towards everyone who helped her, “from the intern who made [her] oatmeal... to the nurses who calmed [her]... to [her] boss for being kind and understanding... to [her] incredible parents... to [her] unconquerable sister... to Alaleh, [her] idol.”
And the strong woman who stands as a lighthouse for other women. In the closing of her statement, Miller wrote, “You are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you."
The world knew all these things about you, Chanel, long before you told us your name or job.
But we are endlessly grateful you did, for now we can identify the voice that shed so much light on some of the darkest parts of our society.
Thank you for sharing your story.Support Villainesse