Rape victims are often dealt the worst hand in the media. Dozens of headlines streak their names across society next to their rapists. These survivors—not victims—deserve better than that, and Chanel Miller is on her way to make that happen.
Who is Chanel Miller? Most people know her as “Emily Doe,” or the “unconscious intoxicated woman” as media headlines painted her; however, she is more than that. She is a rape survivor reclaiming her name after Brock Turner assaulted her in January 2015, according to The Washington Post.
While Miller did not initially want her name known to the media, headlines severely smeared her image, especially by declaring her as “intoxicated,” which diminished her story.
In January 2015, two witnesses stopped a man who was on top of an unconscious woman at Stanford University. The woman was never identified in the media and Turner’s father continuously painted his son as “shattered” and “broken,” losing his dream of being a successful swimmer, according to The Atlantic.
Even after being caught on top of Miller, Turner got off easy as Miller continued to suffer in silence. While many people, like Turner’s father, argued that a rape allegation like this would ruin Turner’s life, the headlines referred to Turner as a decorated swimmer and a good guy. Rarely any of the initial headlines referred to him as what he is: a rapist.
This is extremely problematic. No one advocated for Miller. Even though her identity was not public, headlines were tossed around that devalued her story. The headlines probably helped feed into the defense’s arguments.
Luckily, Turner was convicted. At his sentence hearing, Miller, still known as the victim, read a statement that she gave to Buzzfeed News. She felt disgusted that his swimming times were being broadcasted alongside the graphic details of her assault and felt even more broken as people told her she would not win because she could not remember the assault, according to her statement in Buzzfeed News.
After describing the impact that the rape had on her life, Miller took the opportunity to share that girls would no longer be alone.
“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 stop fighting, I believe you,” Miller said in her statement.
The judge sentenced Turner to only six months in prison, but he was eventually released in just three, which caused a national uproar against Judge Aaron Persky. People felt like the survivor deserved better, according to CNN.
Even after her inspirational words to other girls, Miller did not give her name. Why not? Some people would argue that she was ashamed of her actions, and others would say she could not live with the rape. There are so many reasons people could throw around, but only Miller knows the truth.
In early September, Miller finally came forward as “Emily Doe.” Miller told “60 Minutes” that it is time to reclaim her name and her story after years of being reduced to the headlines that defined her, according to The Washington Post.
“In newspapers, my name was ‘unconscious intoxicated woman,’ ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am,” Miller said in her “60 Minutes” interview.
Miller has done more than come forward. She has written a memoir, Know My Name. Writing was the best option for Miller to go “from headline to human,” according to The Huffington Post.
Miller is a strong woman who has taken back her name, her life and her story. She made a powerful choice to fight back against the headlines, and more people should applaud her.
Rape is horrific, and when headlines favor the attacker over the survivor, it undermines the seriousness of the act. Yes, Miller did not reveal her name until now, but that does not give anyone the right to force an identity onto her.
You can be sure I will be grabbing a copy of Know My Name, and I hope you all do too. Miller has all the right words. We just need to listen.
Rebecca Williamson is an English and communication double major junior who loves to dance.