‘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 stop fighting, I believe you.’
Chanel Miller’s story changed our world forever. In 2016, Brock Turner was sentenced to just six months in jail after he was caught sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. His light sentencing, and Chanel’s victim impact statement, which was read by eleven million people in four days, sparked international outrage and action.
Know My Name is an intimate, profoundly moving memoir that exposes a patriarchal culture biased to protect perpetrators, a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and ultimately shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life. Entwining pain, resilience, and humour, this breath-taking memoir will stand as a modern classic.
I’m kind of at a loss with how to review this one.
For starters, I’ll say that I absoutely refuse to rate memoirs. It just doesn’t sit right with me.
For now, just know that memoirs will not be rated.
Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault/Rape, Dating Violence, Suicidal Thoughts, Mental Illness
I can still remember hearing about Chanel’s story, back in 2016. Back then, she was Emily Doe, an anonymous name given to protect her identity. But, I remember vividly how disgusted I was by the lack of justice she received. After being found guilty of three accounts of sexual assault, Brock Turner was jailed for only six months in county jail. Her victim statement instantly went viral across the world, it was translated globally, read on the floor of Congress and inspired changes in California law. Through this book, Chanel details every inhumane, mentally traumatic and exhausting process of seeking justice within the US legal system for sexual assault.
Chanel Miller’s story shattered me. Every page…every word was carefully thought out. Carefully positioned to make us as the reader understand how the justice system failed her…and has failed hundreds…thousands of victims before her. Yes it’s an uncomfortable read but it’s also an incredibly important one. Through Chanel’s voice, I heard the voices of many women – all of whom can relate to Chanel in some way or another.
Even if you can’t relate, Chanel will paint a vivid picture or a comparison that will leave you reeling. I can’t count the amount of times, I had to close the book and just sit there. Anger and sadness bubbling under my skin to the point where I thought I would burst into tears from exhaustion.
The justice system is incredibly flawed. I knew that. But gosh…I wanted to throw up at how much it failed Chanel. And what made it ten times worse was this system was upheld by people, who were meant to help her seek justice for what happened. It was a shocking realisation that patriarchal culture really laid the foundations of our current society and still exists today.
Really and truly…this should have been the perfect case in so many ways. There were eye witnesses, Turner ran away and physical evidence was secured immediately. The fact it ended in a lack of justice shows a culture designed to protect perpetrators, fail those who are most vulnerable and ultimately reveals a necessity for real change within the system.
Every time Chanel details how Brock was made out to be the victim…how media reports branded him as a ‘promising athlete who’s future was now destroyed’, I wanted to scream for her. They made her out to be a drunk mindless party girl, as if that excuses Brock’s behaviour. Chanel clearly lays out that it doesn’t matter whether she was drunk or not, sexual assault is not okay. And the fact, she even has to point that out makes you wonder just how far as society we’ve come? She shouldn’t have had to say anything. Shouldn’t that be common knowledge by now?
“Most people say developing is linear, but for survivors it is cyclic. People grow up, victims grow around; we strengthen around the place that hurt, become older and fuller, but the vulnerable core is never gone.”
Chanel fought to feel like herself again. She conveys all her experiences as she waited four years for justice. We’re given an insight into everything. We read how she began to develop coping mechanisms, quit her job, travelled across the country to paint, fostered dogs and so much more as she waited. The trauma she suffered, the insomnia, the fear, the bouts of depression…she lays herself bare for readers to truly understand the entire odeal. Whilst, she explains how it affected those around her too. From her boyfriend to her little sister…she carefully lists how the trial affected them all – leaving them all scarred in some way from it.
What really stood out to me was that I didn’t finish this book sad. Chanel tears you apart with her words but with every page, you can feel her courage getting stronger. She began to reclaim her voice because she never lost it. She was just made to feel that her words didn’t hold any worth by the same system that was meant to protect her.
“You are allowed to be cautious but you don’t always have to be afraid.”
This book will make you uncomfortable but in a good way. It wasn’t meant to be read for the sole purpose of pleasure. It’s a revelation. A truth. A deep dissect into the world we live in and what more needs to be done.
Chanel makes us question how else we can protect sexual assault victims? And I, for one, finished reading this book feeling so much stronger than I did before.
“Do not become the ones who hurt you. Stay tender with your power. Never fight to injure, fight to uplift. Fight because you know that in this life, you deserve safety, joy, and freedom. Fight because it is your life. Not anyone else’s. I did it, I am here. Looking back, all the ones who doubted or hurt or nearly conquered me faded away, and I am the only one standing. So now, the time has come. I dust myself off, and go on.”