Her name is Chanel Miller, and many of us have known her story, and her prose style, without knowing her real name or anything about her. All we knew was that she attended a frat party at Stanford in 2015, and that night a freshman named Brock Turner raped her. And when Turner was tried and convicted the following year, and sentenced only to six months in jail, she released a powerful letter that she had read in court under the pseudonym Emily Doe.
Now, as the New York Times reports, Viking is publishing her memoir, titled Know My Name, which Miller has been working on for the past two years.
Andrea Schulz, the Viking editor-in-chief who acquired the book, says she "jumped out of [her] chair" to acquire it after being riveted by Miller's letter. "It was just obvious to me from the beginning what she had to say and how different it was and how extraordinarily well she was going to say it," Schulz tells the Times. "She had the brain and the voice of a writer from the very beginning, even in that situation."
The letter to the court — and indirectly to Turner himself — was powerful in its candor, starkness, and rage. She served as her own inquisitor, telling BuzzFeed at the time that she released it to them, "Even if the sentence is light, hopefully this will wake people up. I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire. If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder."
The statement read, in part:
He said he had asked if I wanted to dance. Apparently I said yes. He’d asked if I wanted to go to his dorm, I said yes. Then he asked if he could finger me and I said yes. Most guys don’t ask, can I finger you? Usually there’s a natural progression of things, unfolding consensually, not a Q and A. But apparently I granted full permission. He’s in the clear. Even in his story, I only said a total of three words, yes yes yes, before he had me half naked on the ground. Future reference, if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence.
At the sentencing hearing in June 2016, Miller spoke directly to Turner, saying, "You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice. The damage is done. No one can undo it." She also wrote
Judge Aaron Persky, you may recall, seemed overly sympathetic to Turner in delivering his sentence, and public outrage over the case only grew after Turner was released three months early, in September 2016. It also came to light that Turner had lied under oath about never having done any partying or drinking in his teenage years — photos of him holding a bong and drinking alcohol in high school, and a text message about using LSD, all came out around this time — and Persky had cited Turner's inexperience with alcohol as a reason for the light sentence. (Persky was recalled by voters in Santa Clara County in June 2018.)
Now Miller has the chance to explain the totality of the night in question, and tell the story in her own words based on everything she's learned from unsealed court documents and witness testimony that didn't get delivered in court. And she's "showing her face" like some supporters of Turner demanded she do three years ago, calling Turner "the real victim" (though in retrospect that was probably a fake Facebook page set up by the Russians to sow pre-election discord).
At the time of the assault, in January 2015, Miller was 22 and a recent graduate of UC Santa Barbara. She was living in Palo Alto with her parents while working at a tech company, and she attended the Stanford party with her sister.
Miller's story came two and a half years before the #MeToo movement went viral, but it still must be seen as one of the movement's early sparks. As the Times notes, the recall of Persky was the first time California voters had recalled a judge in 80 years. And shortly following the Turner case and his early release, "Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill imposing mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases." Also, Miller’s statement was read aloud on CNN and on the floor of the House of Representatives, and in November 2016, Glamour magazine named her "Woman of the Year," publishing another essay she wrote under the pseudonym with the powerful words, "Victims are not victims, not some fragile, sorrowful aftermath. Victims are survivors, and survivors are going to be doing a hell of a lot more than surviving."
Photo: Mariah Tiffany/Viking Penguin