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The Courage of Sexual Assault Survivor Chanel Miller


In 2015, Brock Turner sexually assaulted a post-college girl who went by Emily Doe for a long time. Now, she has revealed her real name to be Chanel Miller and has written a memoir of her struggles and courage throughout the trial and the person she is now. We can learn a lot through Miller in what true bravery really is in telling your story and rising above the hurt.

Miller’s Sexual Assault

In January 2015, Miller was 22 years-old living near the Stanford campus. Her sister invited her to a fraternity party at Stanford where she drank a lot of alcohol. The last thing that she remembered was drinking lukewarm beer and handing it to her sister. Two men saw Miller partially naked lying by a dumpster not moving. 19-year-old Brock Turner tried to run away, but the two witnesses tackled him and held him until the police came. 

Miller’s next memory was waking up at the hospital. She was given pamphlets on sexual assault, photographed naked to record her bruises, interviewed by a detective about that night, and underwent a rape kit test. Her worried sister picked her up and they both went home. Miller did not tell her parents or boyfriend what happened and instead tried to resume her life as normal. She recalls being afraid to sign in the form that she was a rape victim in that she had no idea what had happened and felt she would lose her sense of self admitting that was what she was. It was later found out that the sexual assault was digital penetration. She did not know her rapist’s name until 10 days later when it was said on the news.

What Happened at the Trial

A couple of months later, Miller told her parents and boyfriend about what happened. Because of the impending court trial and trauma that were consuming her life, Miller quit her job. Miller wrote in her memoir that she did not like how people were relating her sexual assault to her relationship. That her not wanting someone touching her at all that night had nothing to do with the fact that she already had a boyfriend. Miller’s fears during the trial were that she would appear to the jury as an “imperfect girl”  who drank and blacked out. She felt humiliated walking into that courtroom knowing that the judge, Turner, and his parents all saw photos of her bruised body.

The Sentencing

Turner was found guilty of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person. Turner was facing up to 14 years in prison, but the prosecutors asked for six years. Turner’s dad felt like “20 minutes of action” should not ruin his son’s life. Miller rebuffs that while Turner’s father said 20 minutes, he was not accounting for Miller’s experiences with doctors, therapy, and waking hours. Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail and three years probation, saying that a severe sentence would ruin Turner’s life. This sentence led to protests and for the judge to be recalled which happened two years later. Turner was released from jail after three months. While Miller was thankful that her rapist was arrested, tried, and convicted, Miller still felt devastated that Turner did not get the harsh sentence he deserved.

Miller’s Victim Statement

While people did not know Miller’s identity, she let her voice be heard in a letter that she read at the sentencing. She spoke about what happened before her sexual assault, the moment it happened, and the feelings she experienced after. After it was published, the statement was translated into other languages, including sign language. Messages from all over the world were sent to Miller from survivors and supporters. Before Miller gave her identity away, a new therapist suggested to her to read her statement out loud. Miller felt healed knowing that people were listening to her and got the chance to speak to other survivors. One letter had a real impact on Miller when a 16-year-old told her that her statement helped her get out of bed for the first time in two years. That response led Miller to accept what happened.

What Happened After

California Governor Jerry Brown signed two laws in 2016. One was for anyone convicted of sexual assault in California cannot be sentenced to probation. The other was that all forms of non-consensual sexual assault may be considered rape “for purposes of the gravity of the offense and support of the survivors. In 2018, Judge Persky was removed from the bench for giving Turner a lenient sentence. Turner appealed his conviction, but it was denied in 2018. Miller and her boyfriend moved to San Fransisco but was afraid of sleeping alone in fear of being alone and vulnerable triggering her back to the tragic event. At night, she would turn on all the lights, stack chairs in front of the door, and arm herself with pepper spray and scissors. Miller says she has not slept alone longer than three days. Miller’s advice to others is to listen to the stories of sexual assault survivors no matter how difficult it is and to think of survivors as people before and after the attacks. Miller’s story teaches us that there is true power in sharing your story and having a voice.

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