This memoir is powerful, starting with the title. For a long time, the author’s identity was known to the public only as “Emily Doe”—the young woman who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, who at the time was a member of the Stanford University swim team.
Now Chanel Miller, a 27-year-old woman from California, identifies herself as Doe. In Know My Name, she introduces us to the person who got lost amid labels like “victim” and “survivor”—the person who’s also an artist, a writer, a sister, a daughter. She is more than this terrible thing that happened to her, yet it has shaped her life irrevocably.
In January 2015, Miller and her younger sister attended a frat party on the Stanford campus. During the party, Miller drank and blacked out. Later, two men on bicycles witnessed Turner assaulting her behind a dumpster outside. He ran away; they chased him down and called police. Miller woke up in a hospital bed, covered in abrasions, with her underwear missing. She eventually learned the details of her own assault from reading about it online.
Miller drags the reader through her hell as she lived it, from nurses inserting a camera inside her vagina to take photographs, to facing Turner’s lawyers in the courtroom as they tried to convince the jury that she’s an untrustworthy drunk. The time-consuming legal process is emotionally battering, and Miller’s pain emanates off the page. Turner served only 90 days in jail; most survivors of sexual assault never see their pepretators brought to any justice. “The real question we need to be asking is not, Why didn’t she report, the question is, Why would you?” she writes.
This memoir is a heavy one—but one hopes it will educate people about the terrorism of sexual violence and bring comfort to those still suffering in silence. Additionally, some memoirs based on real-life events are churned out quickly while the headlines are still hot—but this isn’t one of those books. Miller is a gifted writer and took her time sharing this story in her own voice.
In her victim impact statement, which went viral when published by BuzzFeed in June 2016, Miller wrote, “To girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you.” And with Know My Name, she has proven exactly that.