“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.” This powerful opening sentence is from the victim impact statement in the notorious Stanford sexual assault case in 2016. For four years, the victim of this case went by the name “Emily Doe,” but no longer. Now, she wants all of us to know her name — Chanel Miller — and her story, revealed in her upcoming memoir, “Know My Name.”
In 2016, Brock Turner, the ex-Stanford swimmer and perpetrator of the sexual assault, was found guilty of three felony charges and was sentenced to a maximum 14 years in prison. However, the presiding judge, Aaron Persky, only sentenced Turner to six months in jail, of which Turner only served three, and three years of probation.
When BuzzFeed News published Miller’s victim impact statement after Turner’s sentencing, it made national headlines and ultimately became the outcry that spawned the #MeToo movement. Her words became an essential conversation surrounding the rape, sexism and sexual misconduct debate.
As a response to Miller’s transformative lawsuit, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a bill that mandates a minimum sentence in sexual assault cases, a first of its kind.
Last Wednesday, four years since the end of the trial, Miller relinquished her anonymity, revealing her real name. In doing so, she is taking a powerful step toward reclaiming her identity and narrative.
Miller began writing her story in 2017 as a way to piece together the story herself, according to The New York Times. Miller’s memoir not only recounts what happened to her that night but also shows her strength as a survivor, reassuring others that they are not alone. Even the book cover emphasizes Miller’s courage in her recovery journey.
According to Viking’s editor in chief Andrea Schulz, the cover art for “Know My Name” drew inspiration from “kintsugi,” a form of Japanese art that mends broken pottery by gluing the pieces back together with lacquer and powdered gold. This process draws attention to the cracks and conveys that there is beauty in the brokenness of the object.
The essence of this art form embodies Miller’s recovery journey: piecing together her narrative and highlighting the broken parts to show the beauty within.
“Know My Name” is a testament to Miller’s courage throughout her recovery journey. The upcoming publication spotlights the inciting incident of the #MeToo movement and revitalizes its fundamental purpose.
Miller’s exposé isn’t just another sexual assault story. It’s more. It is a celebration of this international movement.
At the same time, the former “Emily Doe” is reclaiming her name and putting an essential image to her narrative, a face to the news articles that described her as the “unconscious intoxicated woman.” It is her way of taking back what is rightfully hers.
“To relearn that this is not all that I am,” Miller said in her victim statement. “That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All-American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something.”
“Know My Name” is especially important during this time because it is so easy for cases like Miller’s to get lost in the sea of news. However, her new memoir combats this problem and keeps the conversation going. She is reminding us through her new book that all sexual assault stories — not just the ones involving the rich and famous — deserve a spotlight.
Furthermore, the title to Miller’s memoir is fitting because she is proclaiming to the world that this story is hers and not Turner’s. The case is about what happened to her and how the criminal justice system failed her, not Turner.
Therefore, “Know My Name” resoundingly emphasizes Miller’s taking over what was rightfully her story. By finally signing her name on it, she accepts it as a part of who she is, a part of her identity.
A caveat: In my previous article, I shared my own story of the personal struggle of accepting my own name as part of my identity. I talked about how I ultimately believed that a name is just an arbitrary label to a person.
I would like to take this moment to address the possible confusion that could occur when comparing these two stories. In a way, yes, I am being a hypocrite by contradicting where I stood in my previous article. However, these are two distinctly different scenarios: one is a personal exploration of my own life and the other is admiration over Miller’s highly publicized narrative.
While reflecting on my own past, I was able to accept that, to me, my name is not a necessity to determine my identity. At the same time, I also understand that, to Miller, it is important for her to reclaim her name as part of her identity.
I am not pretending like I fully relate to and understand Miller’s experiences because I never will. The circumstances, and thus messages of these two stories, are completely different, and I hope they would not be misconstrued as similar. (End of caveat.)
Viking plans to publish and release “Know My Name” on Sept. 24th. A story of a young woman’s courageous survival, I think this memoir will be a revolutionary and essential read to the progressive movement of our society.
Before the release of her book, Miller has a scheduled appearance on “60 Minutes” as she tells her story for the first time in-person during an interview with Bill Whitaker. This episode will air on Sept. 22 on CBS.