Chanel Miller On Brock Turner's Lenient Sentence: 'I Felt Like I Was A Criminal' She was long known only as the victim of Brock Turner, who got a lenient sentence for assaulting her. Now, Miller tells NPR she can "finally exist in the world without having to hide anything."
NPR logo

Chanel Miller, Sexual Assault Survivor, On The 'Immense Relief' Of Going Public

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/763376211/763679546" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Chanel Miller, Sexual Assault Survivor, On The 'Immense Relief' Of Going Public

Chanel Miller, Sexual Assault Survivor, On The 'Immense Relief' Of Going Public

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/763376211/763679546" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Chanel Miller's life changed in 2015 the night she was sexually assaulted by Stanford University student Brock Turner. A jury convicted Turner of three felony counts of sexual assault, and he served just three months in jail. When Miller pressed charges, she went by the name of Emily Doe to protect her identity.

CHANEL MILLER: It sounds a little crazy to have a separate identity, but it was what I needed to do to survive. I sort of just assigned everything that was happening and all those feelings associated with the case to her so that I could carry on in my day-to-day life.

INSKEEP: But now Chanel Miller has decided to reveal her actual identity. She does so in a new memoir, "Know My Name." Miller doesn't recall much from the night she was attacked. She was intoxicated and unconscious at the time. She told Rachel Martin she pieced together what happened to her from local news reports.

MILLER: Every detail, I found out on the news. And I read it at the same time I read all the hostile comments. And so I took those comments to be the truth. And it took a long time for me to detach them.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: What were the comments?

MILLER: That I was older, so I was the predator. They didn't understand, if you're a college graduate, why you were going to a frat party, why you'd be alone, why you would drink that much.

MARTIN: What was the conversation like when you told your mom and dad?

MILLER: It was almost like I cracked in half. I just sort of bent over and was unable to speak. And at that point, my mom stood up and she just held me, and we both cried.

MARTIN: What was it like when you saw Brock Turner for the first time in the courtroom?

MILLER: It was shocking because, up until then, he'd existed as sort of an idea or someone abstract that I'd heard about since I did not know this person - and continue to not know who this man is. That first time, I was really just focused on answering the questions and trying not to cry.

MARTIN: At the end of the trial, the judge asked for your victim statement, something that was going to - was supposed to inform the sentencing of Brock Turner. And the statement was published in full by BuzzFeed. It was incredibly personal. You directed it right at Brock Turner. Did you practice it?

MILLER: Yes, I read it aloud repeatedly. I basically yelled it inside my apartment (laughter) for a week.

MARTIN: Did you really?

MILLER: Yeah.

MARTIN: Yeah.

MILLER: Absolutely. And I worried that the neighbors would think I was getting into constant altercations. But it helped me to be able to speak it aloud. And in the beginning, I was extremely soft-spoken. I wouldn't have imagined doing something like that. But by the end, a year and a half had passed and so much hurt had been accumulated. And it had all turned to rage. I felt an immense amount of pain and anger at what I had to see my family go through, what I had to withstand. And that anger really helped dissolve the fear.

MARTIN: Another unique aspect of this memoir is that while it is incredibly personal, at the same time you are - you're able to grasp the universality of sexual assault and the threat that women live with every day. And there are several of these anecdotes. I wonder if you could - if you could share the story about the man on the bench with the pepper?

MILLER: (Laughter) Sure. I was sitting on a bench one evening waiting for my Lyft. There was an older man beside me, and he was slicing this green bell pepper in his lap. And he offered me a slice. And I remember just looking at this slice and thinking - is he trying to lure me in with this bell pepper, you know? What's his ulterior motive? Is it poisoned? All of this ran through my mind in the few seconds that he was holding it out to me. And then he smiled and I thought - oh, or maybe it's possible that this is just a kind old man offering me a nourishing vegetable. So I took it and ate it. And I think that's really important to remind myself that, you know, not all the world is constructed to hurt you.

MARTIN: May I ask you to read the closing paragraphs of the victim statement that you read in court ahead of the sentencing of Brock Turner?

MILLER: Of course. (Reading) 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 every day for you. So never stopped fighting. I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can't save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can't be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you.

MARTIN: Chanel Miller - her new memoir is titled "Know My Name." Thank you so much for talking with us.

MILLER: Thank you so much, Rachel. I really enjoyed it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANA OLGICA'S "SUGARCANE")

INSKEEP: And a reminder - if you, or someone you know, needs to speak to someone about sexual assault, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673 - 800-656-4673. You can also find help at hotline.rainn.org.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.