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'Rape is not a punishment for getting drunk.' Chanel Miller speaks out during her first interview about being sexually assaulted by Brock Turner

Palo Alto native releasing memoir on the assault, trial and aftermath

Chanel Miller, a Palo Alto native who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner at Stanford University in 2015, sits for her first public interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. Image courtesy of 60 Minutes.

For more than four years, what the world knew about Chanel Miller was limited to her physical state at the time Brock Turner sexually assaulted her, the location where the assault took place, the pseudonym used to protect her identity during the ensuing trial and the words she read to Turner in a Palo Alto courtroom that would capture the world's attention before the #MeToo movement even took form.

Miller was the young woman who Turner, a former Stanford University student, sexually assaulted outside a fraternity party in 2015. He was later found guilty for three felonies related to the assault and served a 90-day sentence in county jail.

With the airing of her first-ever interview on CBS' 60 Minutes on Sunday night, Miller started to reclaim her full identity, filling in the blanks beyond those scant details. In her powerful victim impact statement, she had written: "In newspapers my name was 'unconscious intoxicated woman,' 10 syllables, and nothing more than that. For awhile, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am."

Miller has always wanted to be a writer. The 27-year-old Palo Alto native majored in literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She lives in San Francisco and writes in a small room lined with books and art. Her memoir about the assault and aftermath, "Know My Name," is coming out on Tuesday.

Her desk is lit by a lamp in the shape of a lighthouse — perhaps a reminder of a line from the end of her impact statement: "Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining."

Miller found out she had been sexually assaulted by reading a news story online at work more than a week after the assault, she told 60 Minutes' Bill Whitaker. She couldn't avoid reading the comments section, where posters blamed her for drinking too much and inviting the sexual assault.

"Rape is not a punishment for getting drunk," Miller said during the interview. "We have this really sick mindset in our culture as if you deserve rape if you drink to excess. You deserve a hangover, a really bad hangover — but you don't deserve to have somebody insert their body parts inside of you."

The prevailing narrative about the case, which she felt was perpetuated by the media, was about what Turner had to lose — his spot at a top university, his achievements as a swimmer, his hopes to compete in the Olympics.

The media was "not focusing on what had already been lost for me," Miller said.

For the first time on Sunday, the public heard more about her emotional state during the trial, which ended in 12 jurors finding Turner guilty of three felonies: assault with the intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person.

The pseudonym Emily Doe became the vessel through which she disconnected from the details of the assault.

"I did not want to own that body or occupy it. I didn't want to have anything to do with that image so I pretended it wasn't mine. It was Emily's," Miller said. "I had to compartmentalize my life. I had to say, 'Emily and the trauma are over here and then my daily life is over here and I'm going to keep moving.' All those hateful things they said are about Emily. But they don't belong to me.

"It's a very fragmented way of living," she added.

The line of questioning by Turner's defense attorney, Michael Armstrong, felt like a second assault, Miller said. She was shocked to hear Turner's story change from his initial police interview on the night of the assault, with the addition of him explicitly asking and her verbally consenting for him to touch her. He also said that she was awake, conscious and responsive throughout all of their interactions that evening. (This was in sharp contrast to the testimony of numerous witnesses who described her as unresponsive and unconscious from the point she was first discovered around 1 a.m. throughout an ambulance ride to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose and for several hours at the hospital until she regained consciousness at 4:15 a.m.)

Because Miller had no memory of the assault, Turner was "able to write the script," Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci, the prosecutor assigned to the case, said on 60 Minutes.

"This was not a quest for justice but a test of endurance," Miller writes about the trial in her forthcoming memoir. "Swearing under oath was just a made-up promise. Honesty was for children."

She said she kept notes on her phone throughout the process to remember specific details, which would later inform her book.

Like many, Miller was shocked by Turner's sentence — six months in jail and three years of probation — compared to the six years in state prison that Kianerci sought. He would be released in 90 days due to good behavior.

She was also shocked by the viral response to her victim-impact statement. Thousands of letters, many from survivors disclosing their sexual assaults for the first time, flooded the courthouse the day after her statement was released. The letters were like "medicine" for Miller, working to "dissolve" her shame.

She also drew hope from the two Swedish graduate students who intervened in the assault that night outside a fraternity party in January 2015. Seeing Turner on top of her, unmoving, they called out and then caught Turner when he started to run away. The 60 Minutes interview shows the three of them meeting for the first time.

"There's something really beautiful about the intuition in their reaction," Miller said. "They acted before they could even think."

Because of the case, the way that California handles sex-related crimes changed. In 2016, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that established a mandatory prison sentence of three to eight years for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated person. California also expanded its legal definition of rape to include all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault.

Because of those changes, Miller said she started to feel hopeful again about the criminal justice system.

"I began to believe again in justice," she writes in her book.

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Comments

54 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 23, 2019 at 9:47 am

We applaud and thank Ms. Miller for speaking out and helping to reform California's justice system. Clearly what happened to her from the crime through the trial and sentencing was wrong on many different levels. I am sorry that the judge did not appreciate that.


14 people like this
Posted by Agreed
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2019 at 9:54 am

[Post removed.]


24 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2019 at 11:02 am

resident3 is a registered user.

The role of upstanders is compelling

Gave the victim hope and without them there was no case to have changed the law


18 people like this
Posted by frustrated mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 23, 2019 at 7:39 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

I admire this young lady and Ms. Dauber. Thanks to them justice was served when they removed Persky out of the court. Hopefully, this will remind other people that if women have too much to drink does not gives them the right to rape them. I too was raped when I was young, I was at a party, and a man took me outside away from my family and raped me. When my sisters found me it was too late. I tried to fight back, but I was not strong to push him away or fight because I was drank. I did have enough energy to say "NO", but I was ignored, and he was like an animal out of control. When my sisters found me it was too late. I imagined they knew what had happened, but we never talked about it. I was too ashamed. Of course, my mother never knew about it. Good luck to you, and I hope you are getting the help you need so the experience does not hount you as is has hounted me. Thanks for revealing your name, now I sympatize even more with you, because I know you are real, and you are brave. You are stronger than Turner, even though he was or is an athlete. You have more values than he does. He almost destroyed you, but your survived. His parents should had taught them better.


49 people like this
Posted by iron squaw
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 23, 2019 at 7:45 pm

iron squaw is a registered user.

I feel a great injustice was done to Judge Persky, who did nothing wrong. He merely followed the recommendation of the probation officer, which is a common occurrence. He has sought no publicity and didn’t appear on 60 Minutes or write a book. He is suffering, rather than prospering, from this unfortunate situation. My heart goes out to him and his family. He can’t even get a job as a tennis coach. I hope and pray that his life improves as time goes on. Read about him and you will see that he is an honorable and good man who deserves so much more. XO


25 people like this
Posted by :/
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 23, 2019 at 10:50 pm

:/ is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] Glad that she is healing from sharing her story and those who have been assaulted or raped can relate to her story and perhaps gain some peace.

[Portion removed.]

Cannot expect to hold a steak in front of a pit bull without consequence. One can argue till blue in the face that it's unfair and wrong but it will continue. [Portion removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2019 at 11:33 pm

Wow is a registered user.

"Cannot expect to hold a steak in front of a pit bull without consequence"

If the implication is that men are like pit bulls, then, like dangerous animals, they need to be kept on leashes at all times. In fact, pit bulls are banned in two Canadian provinces, most of Australia, and a number of states and cities in the US.

Banning, muzzling, and leashing men seems like a bad idea. Better is to expect them to behave like adults, and hold them criminally accountable otherwise.


10 people like this
Posted by :/
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 24, 2019 at 2:51 am

:/ is a registered user.

Hey last poster named “Wow”, know what a metaphor is? And yes, there are some men who need to be locked up, and some that already are. To think that everyone will meet your expectations of proper behavior is naive. People amaze me all the time. In NY, they were throwing a tantrum, blocking people from being able to reach their workplaces. So selfish.


19 people like this
Posted by A Moral Compass
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 24, 2019 at 7:49 am

A Moral Compass is a registered user.

From the PA Weekly headline:

'Rape is not a punishment for getting drunk.' Chanel Miller speaks out...

^^^ Concurring BUT the responsible use (and even restraint) of alcohol also enters into the picture & applies whether one is at work, driving a car or partying.

Ms. Miller allowed herself to become more vulnerable to this unfortunate incident by overextending her alcohol consumption & then passing out on the grounds.

Brock Turner exploited her condition & is essentially a sexual predator.

Judge Persky perhaps being a former collegiate athlete himself, kept Turner's sentencing to a minimum when he KNEW there would be public outrage.

There are flaws in all three behaviors as this incident could have been easily avoided.


11 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 24, 2019 at 10:43 am

Anneke is a registered user.

Sexual assault: WRONG
Rape: WRONG
Rape is not a punishment for getting drunk: RIGHT

"After consumption, alcohol causes the body's systems to slow down. ....One of the most significant short term side effects of alcohol is reduced inhibition. Reduced inhibitions can lead to an increase in sexual behavior." Wikipedia

[Portion removed.]

Binge drinking on college campuses has caused and will continue to cause many more cases of sexual wrong doing. It needs to be addressed and managed strongly by the Executive Board of each college and university. I believe they carry a major responsibility to guide these young adults, after they have left their parental nest, in becoming good and moral adults with well developed mature brains.



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