Formerly known only by the pseudonym “Emily Doe” in the Brock Turner case, Chanel Miller spoke out in her first television interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Emotional during some moments and stoic during others, Miller discussed revealing her identity and reclaiming her story through her recently released book, “Know My Name.” She talked about the humiliation and trauma she felt testifying, but also the strength and hope she gained from the solidarity of other survivors.
“It’s not the topic I would’ve chosen, but it was the topic I was given,” she said, on her choice to write her memoir.
Miller had majored in literature in college. In 2015 when the assault occurred, she was a 22-year-old college graduate working at a tech startup in her hometown of Palo Alto, California. She had attended the Stanford fraternity party with her younger sister, who was home for the weekend. Miller had drunk and become heavily intoxicated — a fact she never tried to hide in court. Two Swedish Stanford graduate students Peter Jonsson and Carl Arndt found her behind a dumpster with some of her clothing removed and Turner on top of her. Turner tried to flee the scene, but Jonsson and Arndt caught and pinned him down until police arrived. Miller was taken to the hospital, where she completed a rape kit and waited ten days to find out what had happened to her.
She did not know the details until she read an article about Turner’s arrest and realized the unconscious woman found with pine needles in her hair, her underwear beside her, and her shirt partially removed was her.
“It was surreal having the news broken to me by the internet,” Miller said. “I was alone sitting at my desk surrounded by coworkers, reading about how I was stripped and then penetrated and discarded in a bed of pine needles behind a dumpster.”
After she read the article, Miller said she scrolled to the comments.
“‘What was she doing at a frat party?’ ‘This isn’t really rape.’ ‘Why was she alone?’ ‘She’s the predator because she’s older.’ ‘Why would you ever get that drunk?’ It was endless,” she said.
However, Miller said no matter how much she drank, she did not deserve to be raped.
“Rape is not a punishment for getting drunk,” she said. “We have this really sick mindset in our culture as if you deserve rape if you drink to excess. You deserve a hangover, a really bad hangover, but you don’t deserve to have somebody insert their body parts inside of you.”
Miller also said in addition to victim-blaming language, the media clouded the narrative with descriptions of Turner’s athletic prowess and accomplishments as a swimmer.
“I didn’t understand why it was relevant when you’re also reporting that my lower half was completely exposed, that my necklace was wrapped around my neck, that my hair was disheveled, that my bra was only covering one breast and the rest was pulled out of my dress,” Miller said. “I don’t understand why it is relevant how quickly he can move across a body of water in the context of that article.”
The media pounced on the story of the fallen privileged Stanford swimmer, oftentimes sharing a smiling yearbook photo of him instead of his mug shot.
“They were framing it like he had so much to lose and were not focusing on what had already been lost for me,” Miller said.
But relatively, Turner really lost very little. He was sentenced to six months in prison and served only three because of his “good behavior.” His father bemoaned the prison time his son was sentenced to, saying he should not have to pay for “20 minutes of action.”
“I was in shock,” Miller said regarding Turner’s sentence. “So, you’re saying I just put aside a year and half of my life so he could go to county jail for three months. There are young men, particularly young men of color serving longer sentences, for non-violent crimes.”
But even while her name was not known to the public, Miller’s story went viral. At Turner’s sentencing, Miller read her victim impact statement, which she provided to BuzzFeed news. The statement went viral and became a rallying cry for sexual assault survivors. She said she received letters from survivors who thanked her for telling her story.
“It was really like medicine,” Miller said. “Reading these was like feeling the shame dissolve, you know, bringing all the light in.”
Miller said the disparaging, dismissive comments she heard in court inspired her to tell her story through “Know My Name.”
“And I remember in court the defense attorney always said, ‘Chanel has no memory. Chanel has no memory,’” Miller said. “And I remember sitting there and thinking, ‘I will remember everything. I will remember every remark, I will remember the lighting inside of this courtroom, I will remember the texture of the defense attorney’s hair, I will remember the depth of the pain you made me feel. I will remember it, and I will record it and I will write it so that it will not be lost.”