Does your Societal Power Diminish your Sexual Misconduct Records?
If it is all right, for the majority of this statement I would like to address the defendant directly.
You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.”
This is the opening statement to a more than 7,000-word victim impact statement read by 22-year-old Emily Doe, who in January of 2015 while visiting her sister and after a night partying, was found lying unconscious outside of a dumpster on the Stanford University campus. Two Swedish graduate students were biking around on the night of this incident and saw a suspicious man who looked to be forcing himself onto another individual underneath him. These two went up to the suspicious man, who attempted to run away, but the Swedes tackled him to the ground and waited for the police to arrive. Upon arrival, he was arrested for suspicion of attempted rape and penetration with a foreign object.
Emily Doe awoke to the sight of her body being wheeled down the hallway of a hospital, dried blood plastered on the back of her hands and elbows, pine needles dispersed in her hair scratching the back of her neck. When she asked the deputy beside her where she was, his blank-face response was a hospital, you were assaulted. Plain and simple, as if his job was to recite the line over and over again to every sexual assault victim he met. No formal hello, no name introduction, no background details. Three words. You were assaulted.
Imagine this feeling of sheer fear; waking up with a foggy consciousness and the first thing you hear is that you were indeed assaulted. Wouldn’t you be fucking terrified if you woke up from an innocent night out partying with friends, only to be exposed to the fact that you’ve been violated, touched without consent and assaulted?
Emily Doe underwent a sexual-assault kit at the hospital. Her clothes were taken and put in paper bags labeled with an identifying number for evidence. Flashes filled the room while pictures were taken of the various abrasions covering her body, rulers measuring these abrasions brushed her bare skin, swabs were inserted into her vagina and anus and a Nikon lens was even stuck between her legs for further documentation. Emily Doe left the hospital that day with the following information:
“All that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a
stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up
A few days later, Emily Doe was back in the world attempting to live a normal life, scrolling through her phone when she came upon an article. The words filling the page displayed the horrific details of her own assault. No one had contacted her with any new information. She learned the story of her assault for the first time looking through bright glass with illuminating letters outlining the details of her own assault, the assault that was never explained to her.
“In it [the article], I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with
my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress
pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way
down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I
did not recognize.”
She kept reading.
"In the next paragraph, I read something that I will never forgive. I read that according to him, I liked it. I liked it. Again, I do not have words for these feelings.”
This suspicious man was later identified as 19-year-old Brock Turner, a prestigious swimmer at Stanford University who was sitting on an academic scholarship and multiple offers from Olympic organizations. He was a really good swimmer. I mean, like, a really fucking good swimmer. A good enough swimmer to receive remorse from the judge who was assigned to his trial. Judge Aaron Persky pondered upon the thought that a long time in jail would hurt Turner’s reputation.
Twelve jurors found Turner guilty on three felony accounts of sexual assault beyond reasonable doubt. Breaking it down; that’s twelve votes per count, thirty-six “yeses” establishing that he was indeed guilty. These convictions held a potential 14-year sentence in prison. The prosecutors in the case recommended six years, his probation officers recommended an even shorter sentence in county jail. Ultimately, on June 2, 2016, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in county jail. In three months, Turner walked out with nothing but his name plastered on a sex-offender list.
Four years later, after hiding under the mask of “Emily Doe” in fear of attaching her real name to the label of “unconscious woman who was raped behind a college frat dumpster,” Doe made her debut and named herself as Chanel Miller. Upon the reveal of her name, Miller also announced the publication of her memoir Know My Name. This memoir stands as a way for Miller to take back the humanity she lost after four years of being nothing but ‘that strong girl that stood up against her perpetrator.’
“There is an instinct to lionize survivors of sexual assault who are brave enough to share their stories, to put their experiences up on a pedestal for the edification of the larger culture… But to turn a survivor into a symbol, a lesson, a one-dimensional inspirational quote, is to flatten them and deprive them of their humanity” said Emma Gray of HuffPost.
Simply, Chanel Miller wants what was always rendered to Brock Turner: to be viewed as a human being. Her anonymity allowed the statements she made to feel universal, to prove that sexual assault is not an issue pertaining to one gender, age or sexual orientation.
“The lady with the blue hair, the one with the nose ring. I was sixty-two, I was Latina, I was a man with a beard. How do you come after me, when it is all of us?”
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was perceived as a liar when she had the courage to speak up against pending Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and how he sexually assaulted her in high school. Because she was reporting 30 years after the alleged incident, people laughed at her. Emma Sulkowicz, who identifies as non-binary, suffered trauma and backlash after reporting Paul Nungesser to Columbia University officials for choking and slapping them, holding their wrists down, and anally raping them, with no consent. Twenty-five individuals have accused President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, yet the media takes this information and makes it into a meme: ‘“Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Why the fuck does society encourage this?
I give Chanel Miller all of my respect for delivering message after message to change the way we talk about sexual assault survivors. She is a badass woman who refuses to let the worst thing to ever happen to her define her. She refuses to live only in the public sphere of ‘Emily Doe, Stanford assault rape victim found with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach.’