As a rape survivor, I strategy true tales of sexual assault with a sure trepidation.
When I learn Roxanne Homosexual’s “Hunger,” wherein she describes her personal adolescent assault, I needed to take the ebook with me to remedy to course of the feelings that arose. Whereas watching “Audrie and Daisy,” a documentary that facilities largely on the case of Daisy Coleman, who was raped in Missouri at age 14, I was so bodily triggered I felt I would possibly vomit. Like many sexual assault survivors, I spent the weeks of the Brett Kavanaugh affirmation course of in a PTSD nightmare.
Regardless of these troublesome unintended effects, I proceed to seek out myself drawn to those tales, to want to see my experiences mirrored again to me. The great thing about Chanel Miller’s “Know My Name” is that it doesn’t simply mirror ― it illuminates.
Miller, identified then solely as “Emily Doe,” grew to become the middle of a high-profile felony case when she was assaulted outdoors a Stanford fraternity get together in 2015. Her assailant, Brock Turner, grew to become the face of the type of privilege granted to promising younger white males who rape ladies when he was convicted however sentenced to solely six months in jail, of which he served three. When Miller’s sufferer impression assertion was launched and went viral on-line, it effected change ― sparking dialogue; influencing the state of California to set minimal sentencing necessities for sexual assault of somebody who was unconscious, intoxicated or in any other case incapable of giving consent; and resulting in the recall of the choose who sentenced Turner.
Now, along with her memoir, Miller has chosen to disclose her id actually and figuratively, placing a human face on the problem of sexual assault, forcing you to have a look at her. Daring you, when you’re seen her as an entire and complicated individual, to ever once more cut back her to the weather of her victimhood.
Miller’s assault story differs from many others in that her case garnered nationwide consideration. Not solely was she retraumatized by the brutal, invasive journey via the court docket system; she noticed all of it play out in information and social media, unable to cease herself from studying remark after victim-blaming remark on-line. However someway, regardless of the distinctive devastation of her too-public publicity, her story nonetheless feels painfully common.
Within the first few pages of her memoir, Miller reads a pamphlet given to her on the hospital on “Reactions in the Aftermath.” From six months to a few years post-assault, it says, the sufferer might proceed to expertise “isolation, memory triggers, suicidal thoughts, inability to work, substance abuse, relationship difficulties, loneliness.”
My assault was over twenty years in the past and I can nonetheless test off a number of gadgets on that checklist.
Of her emotions instantly following the assault, Miller writes, “I put the memory of that morning inside a large jar. I took the jar and carried it down, down down, flights and flights of stairs, placing it inside a cabinet, locking it away, and walking briskly back up the stairs to continue with the life I had built.”
I’ve at all times in contrast it to flipping my emotions off like a light-weight change, however I had the identical expertise of pondering I may merely compartmentalize my assault, as if I may file it away like a pesky type to be handled later. However as Miller and I each discovered, you’ll come house and discover the jar sitting in your front room once more. The shape will ultimately must be crammed out.
Trauma inalterably adjustments you, stealing your choices, she writes: “Up until then I’d envisioned a limitless future. Now the lights went out, and two narrow corridors lit up. You can walk down the one where you attempt to forget and move on. Or you walk down the corridor that leads back to him. There is no right choice. Both are long and difficult and take indefinite amounts of time. I was still running my hands along the walls looking for a third door, to a corridor where this never happened, where I could continue the life I had planned.”
However, after all, there isn’t a third door. There’s solely a lifetime of the work of restoration. That’s the shadow facet of all of the fretting concerning the tragic lack of Turner’s future ― it ignores what Miller herself has misplaced. “My pain was never more valuable than his potential,” she writes.
All through her story, Miller traces up the myths perpetuated by rape tradition about those that are raped and knocks them down one after the other.
However she was drunk. Why, Miller questions, is the act of being handed out drunk seen as worse than the act of violating a lady who’s handed out drunk? You don’t must be “perfect” to be a sufferer.
However rapists are evil monsters, not anybody that I know. “The friendly guy who helps you move and assists senior citizens in the pool is the same guy who assaulted me. One person can be capable of both.”
Why didn’t she report it? Simply look, Miller says, in 328 painful pages. Simply take a look at what occurs to you whenever you report.
A author with Miller’s present of perception can assist clarify us to ourselves. Much like the best way that Caroline Knapp’s aching, self-aware prose in “Drinking: A Love Story” defined my very own alcoholism to me, “Know My Name” taught me one thing about what it means not simply to expertise trauma however to outlive it. Simply as I’ve handed my lovingly dog-eared copy of “Drinking” alongside to a different feminine alcoholic, I would put “Know My Name” on the required studying syllabus for these coping with the aftermath of sexual assault, those that love them and everybody else who lives underneath the shadow of this nation’s pervasive rape tradition.
Late within the textual content, Miller describes herself as a “pair of eyes,” a “civilian who’s been randomly selected” to have this expertise in order that she might “observe, feel, document, report.” And whereas I would by no means need anybody to must undergo what Miller went via, thank God she was watching ― and selected to talk out.
As sexual assault victims, we inform ourselves so many tales. I shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t have been drunk. I shouldn’t have “encouraged” him. I ought to have kicked/fought/screamed more durable. It’s my fault.
A memoir like Miller’s has the ability to override these different narratives, to remind us of our personal innate worth and to assist us harness our energy. And that’s, in actual fact, the story that rape survivors deserve to listen to ― as loudly and as typically as doable.
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