“Know My Name”: Famous “Emily Doe” Now Visible

Miller’s new memoir echoes her powerful victim-impact statement, which was viewed more than 18 million times on BuzzFeed alone before it was read in its entirety on both CNN and in Congress. The book is a wrenching and intimate story of sexual assault, survival, self-discovery, trauma, family, and friendship. It’s a beautiful, revealing self-portrait. It’s funny, and it’s heartbreaking, and it’s an inspiration.The Daily Beast, regarding the 2019 Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller

When in 2016 the victim-impact statement of rape victim Chanel Miller, then known as Emily Doe for the purpose of anonymity, went viral, she received a letter from Vice President Joe Biden. “I see you,” he said. Also: “You have given them the strength they need to fight. And so, I believe, you will save lives.”

As important as this kind of visibility can be to a trauma survivor, Miller’s process was anything but easy as she navigated the judicial system over the course of a few years, a period that ended with the appeal of found-guilty perpetrator Brock Turner being denied.

Olivia Messer, The Daily Beast:

She spent those years in the thick of PTSD. She was depressed, she was anxious, she cried. She was unemployed and unable to sleep, afraid that being unconscious again would make her vulnerable to attack.

But through therapy, support from her family, the justice of the trial—and then the injustice of the sentencing and then Internet fame—and with the help of art and performing comedy and writing and gifts from strangers and elderly foster dogs, Miller slowly recovered.

‘I survived because I remained soft, because I listened, because I wrote,’ she said. ‘Because I huddled close to my truth, protected it like a tiny flame in a terrible storm.’

When I saw the excellent Netflix series Unbelievable it reminded me of cases like Miller’s. I wasn’t the only one—I’ve come across several mentions of this same observation. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, for example: “Chanel Miller’s memoir, like the show Unbelievable, is a reminder of the painful alchemy that turns trauma into art.”

As reviewer Rebecca Liu, The Guardian, puts it:

In a world that asks too many survivors to keep their experiences to themselves and shrink their suffering to preserve someone else’s potential, Know My Name stands unapologetically large, asking others to reckon with its author’s dazzling, undiminishable presence. To read it, in spite of everything, inspires hope.

Selected Quotes

The friendly guy who helps you move and assists senior citizens in the pool is the same guy who assaulted me. One person can be capable of both. Society often fails to wrap its head around the fact that these truths often coexist, they are not mutually exclusive. Bad qualities can hide inside a good person. That’s the terrifying part.

The judge had given Brock something that would never be extended to me: empathy. My pain was never more valuable than his potential.

My advice is, if he’s worried about his reputation, don’t rape anyone.

What was unique about this crime, was that the perpetrator could suggest the victim experienced pleasure and people wouldn’t bat an eye. There’s no such thing as a good stabbing or bad stabbing, consensual murder or nonconsensual murder.

I always wondered why survivors understood other survivors so well. Why, even if the details of our attacks vary, survivors can lock eyes and get it without having to explain. Perhaps it is not the particulars of the assault itself that we have in common, but the moment after; the first time you are left alone. Something slipping out of you. Where did I go. What was taken. It is terror swallowed inside silence. An unclipping from the world where up was up and down was down.

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