Chanel Miller’s Know My Name is a powerful reclaiming of her voice that was taken from her after her assault and subsequent trial. Words can’t begin to describe how absolutely gut wrenching and beautiful this memoir is.
Sitting in the driveway, I didn’t know this little yes would reopen my body, would rub the cuts raw, would pry my legs open for the public
Know My Name takes readers through Chanel’s 3 year and 8 month ordeal. From the night of her assault on January 17, 2015, to the denial of Brock Turner’s appeal on August 8, 2018, Chanel fought not only for herself but for other victims who were treated as other by the legal system and society.
Her pain, happiness, hopefulness, and indifference can be felt on every single page. She never holds back. One of these many powerful moments was during her testimony in which she relished how uncomfortable her words regarding her exam after the assault made the male defense attorney.
‘I’d stated my truth unapologetically, and for a moment, I’d held the power, made men fidget, cast their eyes down’
The duality of a person, and society’s unwillingness to accept this, is a frequent topic of discussion. How the nicest guy on the street, who helps you out from time to time, is also capable of horrifying acts. How she herself existed as Chanel- a bubbly, outgoing, stand-up comic at times, but also as Emily Doe; a broken woman unable to sleep alone or be present in the moment. Both good and bad can and do exist within the same person.
The book is a call to action to the world. It doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing when she is assaulted. It doesn’t matter how much she did or didn’t drink. It’s time that our legal system lay these questions to rest, holding the perpetrator to higher scrutiny rather than the victim.
Time and time again, I felt myself relating to Chanel despite never having gone through what she did. I thank her powerful writing and prose for that.
She found solace in writing, performing as a stand-up comic, and cooking. Her skill as a writer comes as no surprise as we all read her powerful victim impact statement when released on Buzzfeed.
Probably the most compelling piece of the whole book are her poignant comparisons she draws from her experience to what was going on in society. Shortly after her assault, Elliot Rodgers opened fire in Isla Vista, killing innocent people because he felt wronged by women, believing they owed him sex.
How more often than not, society forces women to take more responsibility for their assault than the person who attacked them. Expecting that after it all, victims will only speak with positive affirmations rather than being truthful about the ugliness of the entire situation.
Chanel talks at length about how society re-victimizes survivors with their critiques and harsh words and in the same breath wonders why more women and men don’t report their assaults. Society has silenced victims by internalizing, often for years, misinformation on sexual assault. This was evident during the testimony of both Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Throughout the entire time I was reading this book, I kept a note page full of page numbers and quotes that resonated with me. This post would be forever long if I included all of them.
It’s hard to boil down the book to just a few notes to remember. In reality, it is page after page powerful emotion and harsh criticism coupled with a sense of unity. No matter how hard society or other entities try to make survivors feel alone, they aren’t. There are people who support you, see you, and believe you. Even if those voices are quieter than the negative ones rushing in.
It’s both sad and empowering to see another woman regain her voice after it was taken away by an act that should have never happened. That should have warranted a longer sentence. An act that should have been taken seriously from the moment it happened.
An act that can be combated if we began holding the correct people accountable for their actions instead of praising them on their athleticism.
Know My Name is a must-read right now memoir. It’s going to make you laugh, cry, feel pissed off. But most importantly, it lets you know that you are not alone.
And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you, When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you.
If you or someone you love is a victim of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. Remember, you are not alone.
Cover Image courtesy of NBC Bay Area