Alumna releases memoir after sexual assault case

Madison Nguyen and Joshua Yang

On Sept. 2, Chanel Miller—Gunn graduate and sexual assault survivor—came forward out of anonymity with her new book, “Know My Name,” a memoir detailing her life both before and after she was raped by former Stanford student Brock Turner in Jan. 2015.

As a member of the Gunn class of 2010, Miller is still in the minds of many teachers; English teacher Paul Dunlap vividly remembers the shock and pain he felt upon learning his former student was the survivor of assault. “It hurt a lot,” he said. “I did feel like, how did we fail her? What could I have done to protect her? I know, intellectually, that that’s not necessarily right. But that’s how deep it hurt.”

English teacher Kristen Owens, Miller’s former volleyball coach, was also emotional. “My heart broke for her,” she said. “She’s just so innocent and you just want to keep her protected in a little bubble, because she’s so special and sweet. She’s just one of those people who sees only the good. And then for something so bad to happen to her.”

For the teachers who know Miller, the Stanford sexual assault case became deeply personal. “I was angry and hurt and went home and hugged my daughters a little bit closer,” Dunlap said.

Yet anger was soon replaced by a bittersweet sense of pride for Miller’s decision to speak up. “I sent her a text and I was like, ‘I’m so proud of you,’” Owens said. “‘You are speaking for millions of women right now by coming forward and showing your strength and your vulnerability.’”

Dunlap is similarly proud of Miller’s courage. “I admire that so much,” he said. “She says, I’m not his victim. I’m not his anything.’ That’s amazing.”

Art teacher Mark Gleason, who taught Miller in his graphic design class, echoed Dunlap’s words. “I admire her sense of ownership,” he said. “She’s not his victim. She’s not his anything. All [of] that was very brave.”

The teachers who interacted with Miller can all attest to her spirit and personality. “Even from the first time I met her, she was open, sensitive, positive and looking for the best in people,” Dunlap said. “She had one of those kinds of expressions and smiles that brought out the best in people.”

Owens also remembered Miller’s cheerfulness when she was on campus. “She was just fun loving and silly,” she said. “Everybody loved to be around her. She was always smiling.”

Much of that enthusiasm and optimism was channeled into activities such as helping to coach a volley-ball team, according to Owens. “We were coaching these 13-year-old girls,” she said. “We would get to practice and they would just be huddled around [Miller] asking her a million questions about boys, dances and homework. They just wanted to know every single detail about her life. I think probably a lot of seniors in high school would get annoyed, but she totally indulged them. She answered all of their questions. She took them under her wing.”

Dunlap pointed to Miller’s involvement in the then-fledgling Sources of Strength club. “The club was just starting and there was a really big group the first time because it was new and interesting,” he said. “It was close enough to the first suicide cluster that people really were looking for tangible things to do. People wanted to help. [Miller] was that type of person. If she could think of a way to help other people, she would do it.”

One of Owens’s favorite memories of Miller is the backstory of a mural in Gunn’s room K-14. “I had a [Focus on Success] student about three years ago who passed away from leukemia,” she said. “When he passed away his senior year, it hit me really hard. His mom sent me some money and said, ‘I want you to spend this on the Focus on Success Program.’ Chanel and I had remained in contact, so I texted her. And I said, ‘Hey, would you be interested in painting a mural for my Focus on Success classroom?’ She was totally down to do it. She didn’t know [the student], but she looked through all of his pictures and everything from the memorial. After talking to me and some of his friends, she came up with what she thought really personified [him].”

Miller painted the mural—which still stands at Gunn to this day—in 2017, even after her ordeal, according to Owens.

After her assault, Miller continued to spread a message of resilience and strength. As part of her legal process, Miller penned and read aloud a victim statement that later spread virally in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Her opening words—“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today”—were read aloud by celebrities and shared on social media, sparking outrage and discussion.

To Dunlap, Miller’s experience isn’t an isolated incident. “I think we have a cultural problem,” he said. “Like most hard things, it doesn’t get better by ignoring it. We can’t just turn away from the painful or ugly, and then hope it gets better.”

Miller remained under the pseudonym of Emily Doe for three years; in publishing her memoir in September, Miller seeks to reclaim her own identity as a survivor, not victim, of sexual assault. “Know My Name,” just like Miller’s victim statement, has since attracted national attention; publications such as the Washington Post and the Atlantic have reviewed, analyzed and dissected Miller’s words.

In a short video released in conjunction with “Know My Name,” Miller expressed her continued belief in a more accepting, hopeful future and urged her fellow survivors to stay strong. “Survivors will not be limited, labeled, boxed-in [nor] oppressed,” she said in the video. “We will not be isolated. We have had enough. Enough of the shame, diminishment, the disbelief, the loneliness. Look at all this togetherness. Look out for one another. Seek whatever you wish to be in life. Speak up when they try to silence you, stand up when they shove you down. No one gets to define you.”