On Monday night, the UConn Women’s Center hosted author and artist Chanel Miller for a virtual book reading and discussion. Miller was first known as Emily Doe, the survivor of a sexual assault case at Stanford University in 2015. Miller’s assailant received a six-month sentence; after, her victim impact statement was anonymously posted on Buzzfeed and went viral within days.
Miller remained anonymous until 2019, when she released “Know My Name,” an NYT best-selling memoir. At the event, Miller read an excerpt from the book’s afterword, which described her indecision in regards to revealing her name.
“I promise to write 90,000 words, but I will not promise to reveal myself,” Miller said, recounting her thoughts heading into the writing process.
While stepping out from anonymity can be empowering, Miller acknowledges the difficulties of such an act. There are more obstacles than just mustering up courage; as an example, Miller mentioned that one would have to be able to afford security cameras.
The event then opened up to a discussion and Q&A session, moderated by UConn student Ashaureah Williams. Miller began by talking about being in the courtroom, which was flocked by lawyers and experts in their respective fields.
“Throughout that whole time I felt like I was the least qualified person to take the stand,” she said.
Yet, over time, Miller began to recognize the importance of her voice.
“There were so many narratives that existed about my experience and my body, and none of the narratives were mine. It took me a long time to understand the value of the lived experience, the knowing of how it feels to inhabit your body,” Miller recounted.
Miller channeled that into “Know My Name,” offering her perspective on the event to those willing to listen. While writing the book was no easy task, it gave her a sense of freedom.
“On the page, I can express things very expansively. I don’t filter my rage as much as I do when I’m speaking,” Miller explained.
Miller particularly took issue with how the media treated her. In her victim impact statement, she revealed that she discovered details about her rape through a news article. The harsh subject matter was then concluded with a recap of her assailant’s swimming times.
As the case was unfolding, news outlets reached out to get Miller on their shows. If she declined, she was given two weeks to change her mind. Two weeks until she became irrelevant, Miller contended.
Miller recalled a moment during the case with her sister; they had spotted a caterpillar on the windshield of their car and pulled over to place it in some grass.
“Those moments are just as important as those in the headlines,” Miller declared.
When asked to give advice to other sexual assault survivors, Miller encouraged them to take care of their primary needs first and foremost. When not in court, she found it important to treat herself almost as though she were a baby — making sure she had eaten, drank water and taken a shower. Little things make a big difference.
On top of being an activist, Miller, who received a degree in literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, is an artist. She frequently posts her work on social media and is currently working on a middle-grade novel. She is excited to be showcasing her whimsical side with something that is staunchly different from her memoir, but still true to who she is.