Chanel Miller’s 2019 memoir, KNOW MY NAME, describes the events following her sexual assault by rapist Brock Turner.
In the early morning hours of January 17, 2015, at Stanford University in California, nineteen-year-old Brock Turner raped Chanel Miller behind a dumpster near an on-campus fraternity house. Twenty-two-year-old Chanel was unconscious. Incapable of fighting back.
The attack was stopped by two foreign exchange students passing by. The intoxicated Turner ran, but was tackled by one of the students. The attacker was arrested, and later, indicted on five sexual assault charges. He pleaded not guilty. He was convicted of three of the charges and sentenced to six months in prison, of which he served only three months.
When Judge Aaron Persky served this lenient sentence, he cited Turner's age, the fact that both he and the victim were drunk and that prison time could have a "severe" impact on Turner's life as the reasoning behind the soft six-month sentence. He was swayed by the offender’s outstanding character and bright future, all pleadings for gentility given by his family and friends. After two years of anger, outrage and debate, Judge Persky was recalled from his seat on the court.
Through the entire process the survivor, Chanel, was called Emily Doe. This anonymous signature the only bit of privacy or privilege she was afforded throughout this traumatic time. Immediately after the attack hospital officials and police knew what happened to Chanel, yet they were hesitant to tell her.
In her book, she tells of waking up on a gurney in the hospital hallway and being told that she had been assaulted. But she learned the details of what had happened to her the way the rest of the world did — reading the news on her phone while at work. Investigators had taken pictures of her partially dressed, unconscious body for the investigation. These pictures were displayed in court during the trial. In front of her family. There was little dignity given to Chanel.
She heroically reclaimed her worth when she wrote KNOW MY NAME, published in September of this year. She writes about being defined only as the anonymous victim of something terrible that happened to her. Turner, on the other hand, was often characterized as a deep, talented young man with great potential. She talks about what it was like to endure a high-profile trial but it also gives her the chance to present herself not just as a victim but as a person. A strong, amazing person.
This book is emotional, thorough, and difficult to read, but it is an important read. KNOW MY NAME is sad and horrifying, yet somehow written with beauty and care. The book is a requiem for Chanel’s lost innocence. Innocence lost, not just at the hands of her attacker, but by the levels of bureaucratic manhandling after the damage was done. KNOW MY NAME is a song for so many others who lost their naiveté, their security or hopefulness