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ESPOSITO: Chanel Miller’s ‘Know My Name: A Memoir’ proves progress is slow

Column: Unapologetically

In the era of “Me Too,” where almost everything has to be politically correct, arguments have been made that the reign of women harassment is over. 

We have moved past sexism, they claim. We have crushed the evils of sexual assault. Some have even begun to accuse women of “playing the victim.” They claim we target males, that the victims of this generation have swapped. 

In the midst of these claims, Chanel Miller emerged with a powerful memoir. She came from her former alias of “Emily Doe,” whom she was referred to as during one of the most infamous trials of this generation. 

Miller came forward as the victim of Brock Turner, who was found guilty of sexually assaulting her back in 2016. Turner was found assaulting Miller, who was unresponsive, behind a dumpster. He was then tackled by two witnesses. 

Turner was found guilty of all charges with overwhelming evidence against him. The judge sentenced him to less than three months in county prison, claiming the loss of his enrollment in Stanford University and hopeful Olympic swimming career was sufficient punishment. 

Miller's victim statement, published as Emily Doe in 2016 on Buzzfeed News, received more than 11 million views in only four days. In her statement, she rallied against the justice system, depicting how she was victimized and dehumanized by it and shamed for her actions as an unconscious victim while the perpetrator was met with remorse from the judge. 

Finally coming out as the iconic Emily Doe, Miller’s emotional memoir described three years of hardships as she endured media accusations and victim-blaming. She elaborated on how before she even knew what had happened to her the night she was unconsciously assaulted, it was published in news cycles. 

She wrote about how she sat at work reading articles on how she was found with Turner assaulting her behind a dumpster, before she even knew it herself. 

Miller is not bitter about what she went through. She is brutally honest, unapologetically raw and anyone reading her memoir can see that what she went through does not match the message of “Me Too.” She was not empowered to speak her truth. She was shut down by hateful comments and a system that still evidently questions what sexual assault really means. 

Since her powerful victim statement that served as a rallying cry for victims everywhere, California lawmakers have broadened their definition of rape to prevent such a legal injustice from happening again. Because Turner did not fully penetrate Miller, the judge used that as reasoning as to why he did not want to fully classify it as rape. 

Yes, Miller has inspired change. Yes, her victim cry has inspired millions of women to speak out and say "Me Too." 

But, it would not have happened if she did not rally against the legal system. Change would not have occurred if she had not questioned our laws, our judges and our superiors. The odds were stacked against Miller — the laws are still stacked against Emily Doe’s everywhere. 

Despite this, Miller inspires girls everywhere to keep fighting. She repeated in her memoir that she is still with them, that she is still fighting. So should we. 

The era of "Me Too" must not be overshadowed or forgotten. These issues are not to be buried. The strength of victims speaking their truth must not be forgotten. We must remember Miller's name. 

As Miller said: “And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you.”

Laura Esposito is in the School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. Her column, "Unapologetically," runs on alternate Tuesdays.


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