Keynote speaker for Sexual Assault Awareness Month Chanel Miller speaks on reframing her narrative


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Artist and activist Chanel Miller spoke in a moderated webinar Monday hosted by the Center for Awareness, Response and Education.

Yola Mzizi, Reporter

Content warning: this article contains mentions of sexual assault.

Award-winning writer and artist Chanel Miller spoke about her experience with sexual violence and its aftermath in a webinar hosted by the Center for Awareness, Response and Education Monday.  

“I felt shame for a long time,” Miller said. “That was not my burden to carry.”

In 2016, Miller, then known under the alias “Emily Doe,” wrote a 12-page victim impact statement of her experiences pressing charges of sexual assault against former Stanford University student Brock Turner. The statement, which quickly went viral online, would ultimately inspire the writing of her 2019 memoir, “Know My Name.” 

Miller opened the event by reading the afterword of her memoir In the reading, she focused on reframing the narrative of her experiences and the events that led to her sharing her name with the world. 

Miller said she felt sidelined by the press and the court during the trial.

“They moved unassailable through the world, while I remained hidden,” Miller said. “I decided, for as long as they are out there, I will be out there, too.”

The event was the keynote address of CARE’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month programming and moderated by Northwestern students. This year’s theme is “Archiving Our Narratives, Proliferating Our Voices.”

Katelyn Kennon, CARE’s assistant director of sexual violence response, said the organization’s intention with the theme was to highlight the varied paths healing can take and how these different forms can intersect with storytelling. 

“Chanel Miller is so influential to survivors of campus sexual assault,” Kennon said. “Her story has resonated with students around the country and students at Northwestern as well.”

Kennon said Miller’s story speaks to how traumatic experiences can lead to a series of bureaucratic processes in reporting an assault, such as interacting with the police and the criminal justice system. She has seen this replicated in the experiences of survivors at NU, Kennon said. 

Some students at the event expressed concern about reconciling the use of the criminal justice system to hold abusers accountable while still supporting prison abolition efforts. They asked Miller about her experiences during the trial. 

“My primary anger was based on the fact that my assailant never learned anything,” Miller said. “What is so painful about all this is that all survivors want is an acknowledgment that harm was done. Instead, we get lost in a complex system where everyone is trying to tear each other apart.”

Miller, who is white and Chinese American, also spoke about how her racial identity and lived experience of violence have informed her understanding of the rise in anti-Asian sentiment and violence.  

Miller said it is an upsetting time to be visible, as she has been told to conceal her Asian identity in order to feel safe.

“My Asian identity now is infused with terror and pride,” Miler said. “I am still trying to understand what it means and how I can let that identity speak.”

Her relationship with her Asian identity has been one of neglect, recognition and acceptance, Miller added. 

Moderator and Weinberg sophomore Savannah Graziano wanted to know about Miller’s journey towards healing and the steps she took to reach a place of acceptance. 

“How important do you think the process of learning to love the little things again is on the path towards healing?” Graziano asked Miller. 

Miller replied that she has found reading, art and journaling helpful as they helped ground her.

Reflecting on her experience of sexual assault and being a survivor, Miller expressed the importance of resilience. 

“I was focused on surviving,” Miller said. “I had to live through the next day even if I was going to do it imperfectly.”

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