On Wednesday 26th of February, Room for Discussion interviewed Chanel Miller, to many known as Emily Doe. Rostra Economica was among the audience, so make sure to read our review of the interview if you were not able to attend. Furthermore, if you want to know more about the topic and about Chanel Miller, check out our preview on the interview here.
Chanel Miller proved to be an intelligent woman with a talent for words. The interview flowed smoothly in an informal yet respectful atmosphere.
During the first part of the interview, Miller explained how she felt the night that she was sexually assaulted. She lost consciousness and when she woke up, she found herself at the hospital, blood in her hands and pine needles in her hair. When a deputy told her, she had been sexually assaulted, she could not believe him – this fact did not align with her reality. It was not until a week later when she found out what had happened by reading the news at work. Where was she found and what had really happened, no one had previously told her.
She explained how alarming it was for her to realise how her prosecutor would come into power. How important is to hire the best attorney and prove to be a good victim – “You have to prove you are someone who would not want this”. Justice, she realised was all about strategy. She was surprised by how many questions they could ask you, and she compared it to a multiple-choice exam, where, if you have enough wrong answers, they will not believe you. But we do not live like this, she continued, it was not natural. “Even after the trial, I lived with the jury in my head. In court world, everything demands an answer, and that’s not how life works”. The result of the trial, which sentenced Brock Turner – the Stanford student convicted of the assault – to six months in prison, left her feeling worthless and unimportant. For that reason, when she was asked to publish the victim impact statement that she read at the sentencing hearing for Turner, she agreed. In the end, she thought, who would care?
The reaction to the publication surprised her. People are incredible, she recognised. “For as much hostility there was [in court], it has given back by 1000 times by now”. She feels grateful for the two students that saved her when she was being assaulted, and for everyone that has been there to support her when she most needed it. Miller also admitted that writing her memoir Know My Name has been a very important part of her recovery process. Although in the beginning, she felt like she was falling behind – by spending most of her time analysing the past – she realised that, with time, it became easier to think about the traumatic experience and deal with it. This has made her understand trauma and recovery better: “If you’re processing trauma, the ability to even spend time on your past is a sign that you’re becoming stronger”. People have taught her how to heal and writing has allowed her to be human. Miller clarified that she was equally proud of being a victim and a survivor. At times, she explained, you are in a vulnerable position and need help, and it is not always about surviving and speaking out the truth. “This is not about your courage; it is not built for you to succeed. You have every right to not want to report. Be gentle to yourself, and other people be gentle to survivors”.
Towards the end of the interview, Miller was asked what we all can do as a society. “We should start listening”. Worth, she argued, should not be owned, it should be there since the beginning. And in sexual relationships, the goal should be a mutual pleasure, not solely consent. People can be very drunk and not assault, so if that is a possibility why should we settle for anything else? She warned that this can happen to anybody, at any time. Assault, she argued, is so embedded in the party environment that we often do not realise it is a crime. It is by not taking the issue seriously that we have consequences like this. Miller urged universities to stop treating these incidents as isolated cases and look at the larger picture. But she recognised that the increasing realisation by the society that these cases are not singular is already a sign that we are going forward.
The interview ended with a warm round of applauses to Miller. In my personal opinion, she held an inspiring interview and her cause will help people going through similar situations. And that seems to be her goal: “As long as I can restore people’s confidence, I can measure my victories”.
This is a sensitive topic, so at Room for Discussion and Rostra Economica we want to remind you that there are resources to reach out in case you are going through something similar. In the environment of the university, you can always talk to the study advisers. They are open to help with any related issue and to refer you to more specific help if that is what you want. For a more legal-oriented or medical help, you can contact the Sexual Assault Centre (in Dutch: Centrum Seksueel Geweld).