I can’t make myself write a review for Chanel Miller’s Know My Name, although I gave it 5 stars in Goodreads – it’s strange to review a book that left me so raw in terms of “brilliant” and “beautiful writing” or “one of the best books I’ll read all year”. Those are all true but barely scratch the surface of what this book means to me and to others.
Chanel Miller’s account of who she was before the attack and what happened to her after is incredibly heartbreaking and shines a light on the very real problem that is the justice system. She is a “perfect” victim – she had her sister with her just a few minutes before to witness that she was drunk, she had witnesses who saw what the rapist was doing to her and caught him, keeping him there until the police arrived, she had a good job, friends, came from a middle class background, was educated and all around a “good girl”. And yet, she was re-traumatized by the process, silenced and given a whole new persona as a drunk, very willing young woman who “cried rape” after regretting her encounter and became “hysterical” in the trial. She had her voice silenced and dismissed, while her rapist had his voice amplified and taken as the true account of events, even when the claims were ridiculous. His sentence was even more ridiculous.
Her powerful victim statement brought to light the woman behind the anonymous victim, and forces us to humanize her. Her book goes further into what happened and also after the statement was published. It reminds us that this is her story, not his, that she is a person and she’s more than what happened to her, but also what happened to her changed her forever, affected her family and friends, too. It’s a painful account of how the system punishes the victim over and over and traps them with an almost impossible burden of proof – and even if you have all the proof you need, you still probably won’t get justice, or peace.
Yes, it’s a heartbreaking story, but it’s so much more than that; it’s powerful, it’s compassionate, it’s angry and sad, and very relatable to all the people out there who have gone through something similar. Giving a voice to the victim has made an incredible impact to others who felt silenced for so long. It exposes the flaws of the system, it turns the focus of the story to the victim instead of the rapist, as it should be. Chanel Miller is a brilliant writer and an incredible person.
Please make sure you are in the mental space to read a book that deals with Chanel Miller’s experience with the sexual assault at Stanford in 2015 and its aftermath.