On Feb. 1, Chanel Miller opened up in an exclusive virtual event hosted by UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Students Against Sexual Assault and the Associated Students (AS) Human Rights Board. A UCSB alum herself, Chanel Miller is a writer and artist recognized for her critically-acclaimed memoir, “Know My Name.”
Chanel Miller was first known to the public under the pseudonym Emily Doe in 2015 when she became part of a high-profile sexual assault case. In People v. Turner, the perpetrator, indicted with multiple charges, received an astonishingly lenient sentence of six months in prison. The sentence brought national outrage and scrutiny to the case, and the sentencing judge was recalled — the first California judge to be recalled in over 80 years.
With “Know My Name,” Miller forged her own story with her own words. And in the virtual event, she revealed her earnest personality and thoughts — proving that she is more than just a name. Structured in a Q&A format, Miller laid bare her experience, unique insight, and abundant compassion.
A large portion of the talk revolved around her decision to write and publish the memoir. She described making the decision through a “cost-benefit” lens. Though she recalled the trial process itself as excruciating, being forced to relive the trauma and getting aggressively interrogated in court, she knew that if she didn’t tell her story, then someone else inevitably would.
To her, it wasn’t a matter of getting as many people as possible to hear her story, but more so having someone — anyone — willing to listen. In fact, she hadn’t anticipated her memoir’s success, both critically and commercially.
“Though she recalled the trial process itself as excruciating, being forced to relive the trauma and getting aggressively interrogated in court, she knew that if she didn’t tell her story, then someone else inevitably would.”
A large part of her decision to give life to this memoir, she acknowledged, was rooted in her Asian identity. Chanel recalled the comfort and inspiration she felt from listening to Asian writers like Ocean Vuong. Intensely aware of Asian Americans consistently being “denied emotion,” and the clear falsehood of these stereotypes (a defiance she saw in her own mother), she understood the need to push back and help foster a space in which that very emotion is something to be celebrated.
Chanel also spoke about her UCSB experience — having graduated with a literature major from UCSB herself, she recalled her college years fondly and the warmth of the campus. She even mentioned applying communication strategies she learned in her classes to her court process, except with an audience of sober-suited lawyers instead of a class full of students.
Having been a student at the time, Chanel also opened up about the horrific 2014 Isla Vista killings, where a male student, evidently spurred by misogyny and resentment over rejection, killed and injured multiple people — many of them UCSB students. She mentioned the bizarre nature of not being able to see one of her classmates, a victim of the incident, graduate.
In relation to both the killings and her sexual assault, she recognized that these events are not isolated. She mentioned that these events occur as a result of men being unable to cope with not getting what they want, pointing to a larger societal and patriarchal issue that haunts the country.
When asked about advice she would give to other victims, she instead wanted to shift the focus to the people around them. She said it’s crucial to be present and to be supportive for victims, to give them space and to be better equipped to receive these stories. Though not everyone will be up for the task, she told those looking for an ear that someone eventually will.
“She realized life is a culmination of its ebbs and flows, and if you were to ask her all those years ago, while struggling with these intense traumatic events coupled with other personal hardships, she says she would’ve never believed it if someone had told her what her life would become…”
Furthermore, Chanel graciously canvassed her own journey as a victim, and as a person in general, with her own inner struggles. Like anyone else, she often felt stuck in seemingly inescapable ruts, but she gave inspiration for us all to have the courage to trudge through such situations, believing that opportunities open up all the time and in the most unpredictable of places. She is not excessively idealistic by any means; she acknowledged the persistent effects of her own trauma, and that some days are just harder than others.
She realized life is a culmination of its ebbs and flows, and if you were to ask her all those years ago, while struggling with these intense traumatic events coupled with other personal hardships, she says she would’ve never believed it if someone had told her what her life would become: living in New York City doing what she loves — writing.
Like her memoir expresses, Chanel Miller is determined to keep her name known. She mentioned two new books in the making, and at least one of them will be geared towards younger audiences. Moreover, she looks forward to visiting UCSB again in the future, hopefully in person next time.
CARE is working to foster a violence-free campus. Their survivor services are available 24/7 at (805) 893-4613.
CAPS psychological and counseling services are also available 24/7 at (805) 893-4411.