Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting "Emily Doe" on Stanford's campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral, was translated globally, and read on the floor of Congress. It inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Now Miller reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. She tells of her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial, reveals the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios, and illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators. --
In this brilliantly written memoir, Chanel Miller—more commonly known as Emily Doe, victim of Brock Turner—seizes back her voice and her story. In the process, she takes us on a journey through a system that protects the wealthy, the corporations, and the police, regardless of the cost to the rest of us. Her narrative shows us how our institutions systematically grind down those most in need of their help by continuing the abuse years beyond the the crime. But she also shows us hope and the possibility of change.
This will be a challenging read, but it is also a critical read for anyone who wants change in our society. We cannot change a system if we do not understand how it is failing. It's also important to read, because Chanel deserves to be know wholly and to be seen as the fully-actualized human she is.
This is one of the most intense and emotional books I have ever read. Miller writes with a strong, authentic voice and doesn’t mince words. She begins by describing her experience waking up on a gurney after the assault, her body’s condition, and the gradual realization of what happened to her. This is horrific and difficult reading, made even more so by Miller’s candor about the impact of this traumatic event on her mental and emotional health and her relationships with important people in her life.
While reading this memoir, I was compelled to keep going, but the emotional impact was palpable. I had to force myself to take breaks, reading smaller segments in order not to be overwhelmed. That this happened to me, a reader with no personal connections or experience, says a lot about what it must have been like for Miller, and what it must be like for any victim of sexual assault.
In the latter part of the book, Miller turns her attention to more recent cases of sexual assault involving high-powered public figures like Harvey Weinstein and the 45th President of the United States. She describes the evolution of public discourse and opinion, and her hopes for the future. It’s worth noting that Miller has twice been recognized as one of Glamour’s women of the year: first in 2016, as Emily Doe, and again in 2019 as herself. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Chanel Miller, and hope she continues to be a voice for change.
In luminous and crystalline prose, Chanel Miller proudly reclaims her identity, while admitting that the courtroom alias, Emily Doe, helped her during the early days of the case to function somewhat normally. As Ms. Miller makes clear, however, she was not feeling normal, but hid her hurt from those around her as long as she could. The passages on the legal system and the court trial are riveting, so that the eventual sentence comes through clearly as a miscarriage of justice.
For anyone interested in the court system and how it struggles to protect victims, for anyone brave enough to share Ms. Miller's pain for a while, this book is highly recommended.
This is a gifted, intelligent writer and communicator who has crafted one of the great books of this century. Read it slowly. Every word is intended. Every sentence fits. It's a work of literary art.
“My pain was never more valuable than his potential.”
Chanel Miller, at age 22, was sexually assaulted, while attending a college frat party, at Stanford University.
She woke up in the hospital, having no idea what had happened. She became Emily Doe. Her attacker was Brock Turner, a star swimming athlete, at the school. He was revered. She was scorned.
This memoir is Miller's attempt to reclaim her identity and tell her story, which was sparked by her victim impact statement, that she stated in court. These strong, heart-rending words, quickly caught fire, online and she was universally admired for her courage and tenacity.
I saw Miller being interviewed on 60 Minutes, a few months back and was impressed at the way she presented herself. Her writing is no different. She is a natural. Not an easy read. The reader will be disturbed and infuriated, in equal measures, but the triumph of this story wins out. Her timing is perfect too, with the Weinsteins, and Cosbys of the world, finally paying a price for decades of abuse.
Near the end of the book she details a dispute with Stanford over a proposed plaque in a garden that replaced the dumpster at the site where Brock Turner assaulted her. I researched and was happy to see that Stanford finally relented after four (!) years and used one of the quotes Miller provided. Now I hope they install the other monument she proposes for the nearby site where Turner was tackled, one that reads, "What the fuck are you doing? Do you think this is okay?" There are still too many men who need to take a knee there and think hard about their answers.
Miller is a good (not great, but good) writer and makes many good choices here. All that said she is very young with very little life experience. Her broad overly confident indictments of the justice system and higher education's response to sexual assault on campus are occassionally tin eared and nearly always display a lack of foundational knowledge. I do not question her statements as they apply to her case. Objectively, the judge was a privileged white man who used his power to protect privileged white males. Objectively, Stanford mucked up their response in this case. But. As a lawyer who now codirects a program at a large universty's law school, I can tell you that protecting our students and providing support to victims and censure to perpetrators is something we work very hard to do right. We so because we care deeply about our students and all people who visit our campuses. This is our community, and making it a place of humanity, of equality, of respect is paramount. This is not because we fear legal consequences (though we are and must be mindful of those) but because we believe in these fundamental principles. I would be shocked to learn this was any less true at Stanford than at the school where I am employed. Miller's account of her experience can help us all be better, but her cultural commentary sometimes ends up being pat "Karen on Facebook" answers to complex problems. These sorts of pronouncments often lead to empty changes meant to placate rather then remedy. She attributes motivations to people with no information and makes pronouncements about how things should be that ignore the very purposes of the legal system and the realities of a university campus. Her attack on the rights of defendants is simply incorrect. Our Constitution is there to protect individuals in their dealings with the government, not to protect victims from non-government perpetrators. I am not saying victims should not find support granted by law, but low taxes do away with those sorts of services that do not stem from Constitutional guarantees. Protections for defendants come from the Constituition, and though budget cuts shave those protections very close, the states cannot (and should not) ignore them. They are the foundation of liberty.
Though imperfect this is an unquestionably good book, it should be mandatory reading for freshmen and again, I am grateful to and in awe of Chanel Miller.