A Story of Endurance: New memoir displays the journey of sexual assault survivor, Chanel Miller

For years, Chanel Miller was pressured to conceal her true identity out of fear from the humiliation and shame society accompanies with a survivor of sexual assault. Instead, Miller used the pseudonym “Emily Doe” in an attempt to separate her life from the traumatic events of her past. 

It wasn’t until this September when Miller revealed her identity, publishing “Know My Name,” a memoir displaying her emotional journey during the events surrounding the assault and court case. Throughout “Know My Name,” Miller displays her endurance as she takes her readers through the story of the reclaiming of her identity. 

In 2016, two years before the publishing of her memoir, along with her identity, Buzzfeed released the transcript of Miller’s victim-impact statement, which she read in the case hearing. Miller’s words went viral, even receiving words of encouragement from Joe Biden, the vice president at the time, for the powerful message within her text. 

“Know My Name,” along with Miller’s victim-impact statement, remind the individuals who have had similar experiences that they are not alone. The book encourages those readers to ignore the ignorant comments and isolation endorsed by those who wish to belittle the atrocities forced onto these people.

Miller makes it clear that her memoir is a resource for those who have experienced similar traumatic events. She offers advice on finding something the individual is passionate about and using it for their healing process, like she did with writing. 

“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.”

—Chanel Miller, “Know My Name”

Toward the end of her memoir, Miller speaks about the heroism of others who spoke about their assault, most significantly Christine Blasey Ford. The Palo Alto resident testified against Brett Kavanaugh in front of Congress during the hearings to confirm his placement as a U.S Supreme Court Justice. Blasey Ford’s role in these hearings is referenced by Miller to demonstrate the impact speaking out can make.

Miller also references the #MeToo movement, which was most prevalent in 2017, during the events of the book, relating it to the themes throughout the memoir. One theme being the questions that are constantly asked of victim, many to defame them. Miller references the questions that both the defence attorney and her district attorney ask, none of which had any relation to the actual assault. 

Do you usually drink? Why were you at a college party? Are you in a relationship? These are all examples of the questions Miller, along with countless victims, was asked.   

In the case People vs. Turner, the defendant was charged on three accounts of sexual assault. Throughout her memoir, Miller speaks in great detail about the anxiety and distress she and her family experienced during the proceeding of the court trials. During the sentencing hearing, using her pseudonym, Miller anonymously read a victim-impact statement in court, recounting the assault and directly holding the defendant accountable for the emotional trauma. 

The case was notorious in the Bay Area due to the proximity of the crime on Stanford campus, as well as local Judge Aaron Persky’s ruling. Despite the prosecutor’s recommendation of six years, Persky decided on only six months in county jail and three years of probation for the conviction of three counts of sexual assault. 

For his ruling, Judge Persky received massive backlash from community members, which led to a move for his recall in 2018. The vote resulted in a 60% vote to recall the judge and his eventual removal from office. 

About the Author:

Chanel Miller is a 27-year-old American author and Bay Area Native. Born and raised in Palo Alto, Miller lives in San Francisco. 

The author attended Gunn High School and later studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she graduated in 2014 with a degree in literature. 

Miller first gained popularity after the release of her victim-impact statement after she was sexually assaulted at a Stanford Fraternity party in 2015. The statement was published on Buzzfeed in 2017 and was read over 11 million times, sparking national conversation about the treatment of sexual assault  cases and victims. 

In 2016, Miller received Glamour’s Woman of the Year award for the statement, however was unable to accept it due to still being under the pseudonym “Emily Doe.” In 2019. After the release of “Know My Name” and her identity, Miller was able to accept the award in person.             

Stanford University officials have recently announced that they will be placing a plaque displaying the words of Miller in the contemplative garden near the scene of the assault.