A Review of Chanel Miller’s “Know My Name”

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Penguin Random House

Chanel Miller’s Know My Name is an indictment of the American Justice’s failure to provide justice for victims of sexual assault.

Rajath Prabhakar, Head of Layout

Chanel Miller’s memoir, written in 2019, describes her sexual assault at the hands of Brock Turner in January of 2015, as well as the resulting court case. It offers a sobering view of the way American society is hardwired by the media to focus on how the consequences of rape ruin the life of rapist as opposed to how being the victim of rape traumatizes the victim. 

 

She writes that “I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name.” This is in stark contrast to the way the defendant is treated in the press, which slid in the detail that “he’s really good at swimming” in the midst of an article about said swimmer committing sexual assault. 

 

In addition to the gender double standards, Miller also points out the classist dynamic in this case. Noting that “if punishment is based on potential, privileged people will be given lighter sentences”, she exposes society’s tendency to view its moneyed with the benefit of the doubt, such that in the event of wrongdoing by said privileged individual, the authorities are more likely to believe them over the less-privileged victim. 

 

Miller’s poignant account of her assault and the draining process of litigation is a must-read. However, I would advise readers to make sure they are in the right state of mind before picking this up, as the subject matter can be very heavy at times. It is very powerful, and offers readers a look inside a justice system that seeks to dehumanize and anonymize survivors.