How the Sexual Assault Victim Formerly Known as 'Emily Doe' Decided It Was Time to Come Forward
Chanel Miller's book, Know My Name, will be released Sept. 24
For years, she was known as “Emily Doe” — the anonymous victim who was unconscious when she was sexually assaulted by Stanford freshman Brock Turner outside a fraternity party in January 2015.
As the case made headlines and sparked conversations about campus sex assault, entitlement and toxic masculinity, the victim remained anonymous to nearly everyone in her life, including her closest friends.
In early September, “Emily Doe” revealed her identity: She is Chanel Miller, 25, who on Sept. 24 will become a first-time author with the release of Know My Name, her book about the assault and its impact on her.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Miller — the daughter of a retired therapist and Chinese immigrant author — says she has spent much of the intervening years writing her book and rediscovering a sense of self that Turner stole from her.
“I was slowly teaching myself self-compassion again,” she says. “And yeah, realizing that I deserved to be treated much better.”
She adds, “I thought I deserved time to cultivate myself and figure that out for myself before I could present myself to other people.”
PEOPLE has an exclusive video written and illustrated by Miller, which appears at the top of this post. An exclusive excerpt from the book also appears in the upcoming issue of PEOPLE.
Miller tells PEOPLE, “While writing Know My Name, I was constantly drawing as a way of letting my mind breathe, reminding myself that life is playful and imaginative. We all deserve a chance to define ourselves, shape our identities, and tell our stories. The film crew that worked on this piece was almost all women. Feeling their support and creating together was immensely healing. We should all be creating space for survivors to speak their truths and express themselves freely. When society nourishes instead of blames, books are written, art is made, and the world is a little better for it.”
Miller is still in therapy, which she credits with helping her recovery. Another step in rediscovering herself was writing an inspiring victim impact statement delivered to Turner before he was sentenced in 2016. But even after her statement was widely praised — it is seen as a precursor to the #MeToo movement — Miller didn’t come forward.
“I was still in a place of processing,” she says, adding that she heard “so much negativity and hostility” during Turner’s trial that she had “lost the ability to hear how people cared about me.”
“When the statement came out and I was receiving that swelling of support, I had to teach myself to listen to it, to really hear those compliments and to understand how people were seeing me: That I was really courageous, and that I have humor, and that I’m seen as a loving sister, and that I should be proud of myself. I had to unlearn so much of the shame that I had been taught.”
She began writing her book in secret, mostly at night in her San Francisco apartment. She estimates 90 percent of the people in her life “believed I was going to a 9-to-5 job for the last three-and-a-half years.” Her friends couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go out at night, or why she always seemed to have deadlines.
It was all part of her process of finding her identity separate from the sex assault. The book represents the successful culmination of that journey.
“Now I have a book that’s like an anchor where I can say, ‘Yes, I’m the person from this case, but yes, I also wrote an entire book.’ And this book is not only a story about an assault. … I give you a full portrait of my life, not just the play-by-play of this case that you could have read in the news.”
Turner was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault. Prosecutors asked he be sentenced to six years in jail, but Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to six months, holding that a lengthy sentence would have a “severe impact” on him. Three months after Turner began his sentence, he was released from jail, and the length of his time behind bars drew widespread criticism.
Persky was recalled by California voters in 2018. Recently, he was hired by a high school to coach girls JV tennis, but he was dismissed after parents who had heard of him because of the Turner case met with school officials.
Miller believes Turner hasn’t owned up to his behavior and has used his alcohol consumption as an excuse.
“I was very ready to receive an apology from the very beginning. I’m always going to advocate for acknowledging behavior and figuring out how to change and grow from that, but you can’t do that without acknowledging what happened. And so the growth will never happen,” she says.
She adds, “What I want to say in relation to the judge or Brock is … that I have no control over who they become or how they choose to reform themselves. I will say I will always encourage them to do that, but ultimately, I will always be focused on my own trajectory and thinking about the people I want to help and how I want to move forward.”
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