Book Review: Know My Name by Chanel Miller
*Trigger Warning for Sexual Assault*
Know My Name
BY CHANEL MILLER
Do you remember the story of Brock Turner, the Stanford University Swimmer with the promising future? He was all over the news in 2015 after he was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. I remember reading a few articles at the time and being absolutely horrified that he only received a 6-month sentence. I was even more horrified that most articles glorified his future, how he was such a promising athlete, and how this could be a setback for his career. I remember a lot of the articles really focusing on how this could affect him. I never remember any mentioning how the ‘unconscious woman’ felt. How her life had been affected.
I heard about Chanel Miller’s book on Dolly and Pandora’s podcast ‘The High Low’. I instantly recognised the name Brock Turner and remembered the story from the news. Finding out that Chanel’s story was out there, I knew I had to read it. I wanted a name and an identity for the ‘unconscious woman’ and for the things I knew about this story to be more than the lost opportunities of a rapist.
The book jumps straight into Chanel Miller’s story, starting with the moment she decided to attend the party. We learn a lot about her as a person in those opening pages; she’s an older sister, her partying days are a little behind her since she graduated from University. She doesn’t really want to go to the party, but she wants to spend time with her sister while they’re both home together, something that doesn’t happen as often now they’re older. She has pre-drinks. She continues drinking at the party. She gets drunk and dances. If she’d got home safely and woken up with a hangover the next day, no one would question how much she had decided to drink. But she didn’t. She woke up in a hospital bed with two officers hovering over her, telling her they had reason to believe she had been raped.
We go with her through each moment of discovery that reveals a clue as to what happened to her; her missing underwear, the marks on her body, the twigs in her hair. With the evidence pieced together and the statements from the witnesses, it becomes clear. While Chanel was drunk and unconscious, a man decided to take advantage of her, removing her clothes and inserting his fingers inside her. There was physical evidence of this. There were witnesses of this. That should have been enough.
But instead, Chanel was sentenced to years of interrogation. But what were you wearing? How much did you drink? Did you give him any signals to suggest you were interested? Why did you go outside? Why were you alone?
Why, when she was drunk and alone, did that man not guide her back to her friends safely?
Although this is a hard-hitting book and maybe not for everyone, it is an amazing read. Chanel is an incredible writer, capturing things exactly as they are. Reaching the end of the book and seeing her start to gain bits of her life back again was a relief. There are so many things wrong with the justice system in this world and so many women who could not get as far as Chanel did in seeing their attacker be prosecuted. The least we can do is continue to give women the platform to talk openly. To tell their stories and be heard.