We’d gotten an arrest, a guilty verdict, the small percentage that gets the conviction.  It was time to see what justice looked like.  We threw open the doors, and there was nothing.  It took the breath out of me.   Even worse was looking back down to the bottom of the mountain, where I imagined expectant victims looking up, waving, cheering expectantly.  What do you see?   What does it feel like? What happens when you arrive?  What could I tell them?  A system does not exist for you.  The pain of this process couldn’t be worth it.  These crimes are not crimes but inconveniences.  You can fight and fight and for what?  When you are assaulted, run and never look back.  This was not one bad sentence.  This was the best that we could hope for.

… To him, my lost job, my damaged hometown, my small savings account, my stolen pleasures, had all amounted to ninety days in county jail.

I wondered if, in their eyes, the victim remained stagnant, living forever in that twenty minute time frame. (p.241)

Know My Name a memoir is Chanel Miller’s story.   It is a story where the survivor of an assault, pine needles permeating her upper body, abrasions painfully attacking her partially nude body - exposed to others - unconscious, 100% unconscious,  was deemed the consequence of drinking too much alcohol, her choosing to pee nearby, justifiably preyed upon.  

Her assailant, was seemingly an “innocent” perpetrator, making a “bad decision” Because he’s been drinking, a few minutes of foolishness resulted in something that he deeply regretted.   He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body.  He’s a most serious student, a caring, loving person.

(Let’s note, that for all his supposed remorse, he pled “innocent” and appealed his conviction.   Being a lifelong “sex” offender - isn’t “helpful” in his life.)

Change the story a bit.   I’m a poor, Black, teenage, young man.   My mother doesn’t have enough money for the rent and enough food for our family.   I pulled out a handgun, with No Intention of shooting anyone, and have taken your wallet and cell phone.

It’s not really “armed robbery” because he only got your debit cards, along with your id’s.   He wasn’t doing it for himself, but for his family.   He’s sincerely sorry!   Three months in jail will easily be enough.   He’s going to get his g.e.d., and is turning his life around.

I’ve obviously been drinking far too much, and I don’t even consume alcohol!

This “good young man” - as his many witnesses attested, strangely knew nothing about drinking (he made a mistake drinking - something he’d not previously done), yet Miller found out that he’d had multiple issues recorded locally in his four months of college, related to illicit drugs and intoxicating liquors.

Chanel Miller’s voice pierced and pierces me very deeply!   I know that the book’s impact on many men, and some women will be significantly less than it was for me, but it is an important story to take in as deeply as one can.  The story is important for a number of reasons.   Many men need to understand rape, sexism in general and much more related to gender and sex at a much deeper level.    We are insulated from a lot of realities of being female, unless we’ve been directly impacted directly or hurt by violence perpetrated upon a very close relative or friend.   Even then, many won’t share their hurts and fears and more, protecting us from ugly truths.

I suspect for some women particularly, acknowledging the horrible truths of assault survivors is oft times a huge part of a wall they face,  that they don’t want to acknowledge.   Imagine - that as a young child, you faced the death of your own sibling.    Similarly, from sexual assault, one faces a deep wound, that will never fully heal.

A great strength of the book is the deep humanity Chanel Miller shows.   She was and is vulnerable.   She has built her own strength out of both her trauma, and the support she has gotten from many caring people.    She is a sexual being.  She seeks pleasure in life.   She need not be a “nun” for us to feel deeply for her.

This book deeply exposes “the blame game”, and how we often distance ourselves from uncomfortable truths with excuses to avoid our own discomfort.   I don’t like Miller’s use of the word “girl”, rather than “woman”  or “young woman”, nor: “victim” rather than “survivor” at times in this book.   Though it bothers me, this is my issue, not hers.  This is no excuse for not respecting the bravery and significance of this young woman.   Her writing shows her “realness”.

There are many “bad guys” exposed in this book.  Besides Brock Turner, and his family and supporters, and those who wrote insensitive things blaming Chanel Miller for her own victimization, Stanford University comes across very poorly.    Some of their staff member as well as court and other officials seemed and seem stuck in “the rules” and “obeying”, rather than looking at the realities of our justice system and how it victimizes victims, particularly where they are already deeply disempowered. 

We need to see how systemic issues are key here!   While the judge who sentenced Brock Turner was horrible and deserved the recall that he faced, he was simply a cog in the “justice” system which victimizes Black People and Women far, far too much.   We need to hear the stories, and change things from the lowest level to the top.

I listened last evening to our co-host speak of how he was a top student at the “top school”, and yet he couldn’t get a job he deserved in a field where 90% of the students were female, and far more than 90% of the professors were male.   Brains and grades and similar - are important, yes.   At the same time we need to “educate” those around us with far more than one can learn from a few books.   We, the men, need to really hear women in our schools, communities and at home.   Not all women - are allies - in the sexism related wars either.

This book is not - a “women is good” and “men are horrible” book.   Two Swedish male graduate students came upon the assault, and prevented the assailant from fleeing.   Mr. Kim, a police official, was very supportive of Ms. Miller.

I hope that many of us men will read this book, and then share it in discussion with other men.   I hope also that we will listen and really hear - the words of women who we respect and feel closeness to.

I was forced to fight, in a legal system I did not understand, the bald judge in the black robe, the defense attorney with narrow glasses.  Brock with his lowered chin, his unsmiling father, the appellate attorney.  … I read comments that laughed at my pain.   … One by one, they became powerless, fell away, and when the dust settled, I looked around to see who was left.

Only Emily Doe.  I survived because I remained soft, because I listened, because I wrote.  Because I huddled close to my truth, protected it like a tiny flame in a terrible storm.  Hold up your head when the tears come, when you are mocked, insulted, questioned, threatened, when they tell you you are nothing, when your body is reduced to openings.  … I dust myself off, and go on.  (p.328 - the conclusion of the book.)

I have never faced anywhere near the trauma that Chanel Miller faced, and continues to face, as she moves ahead in her life!   I hope that we can learn from her words how to be more effective allies, reaching beyond our comfort zones, supporting those - who are “different” in their realities of their lives - than “we” are.   We do not need to be victims and survivors - to care - and to really care - is to try to be there for others - to support their journeys as we pursue our paths in life.


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