A victim of sexual assault speaks out in an eloquent memoir.
Miller’s riveting book begins in January 2015, when she awoke in a hospital bed bruised, bloody, with pine needles in her hair. She was 22 and the night before had gone with her younger sister to a fraternity party at Stanford, where she drank enough to black out. Two Swedish graduate students saw her splayed on the ground, unconscious, beside a dumpster, a young man molesting her; he ran, and they chased him and pinned him down until the police arrived. Miller creates a brisk, vivid chronicle of three years, from the assault by 19-year-old Brock Turner, a Stanford student and swimming athlete, to its dramatic aftermath. Called Emily Doe to protect her identity, the author told only two people outside of her family during the first year after the assault and only a few more later. Victim Emily, she writes, “lived inside a tiny world, narrow and confined” to the courtroom and lawyer’s office as Miller—daughter, sister, girlfriend, comedy club performer, art student—struggled with anger, sorrow, depression, and often incredulity. “I didn’t know,” she writes, “that being a victim was synonymous with not being believed.” Victims, she learned, were held “to an impossible standard of purity.” Turner’s high-priced lawyer “littered my night with intentions and poor decisions.” Women claiming assault were always asked if they said no. Although a jury unanimously found Turner guilty of three charges, felonies that could have carried a 14-year prison sentence; although Emily Doe’s 12-page victim’s statement went viral and was read by 18 million readers (including Joe Biden, who sent a supportive message); the judge, noting Turner’s upstanding family and bright future, imposed a six-month sentence, of which he served three. That decision caused an uproar, resulting in an unprecedented vote for the judge’s recall. Despite that outcome, Miller had learned from the trial “whose voices were amplified inside the courtroom, whose were muted,” inspiring her “to expose the brutality of entitlement, gender violence, and class privilege.”
A powerful narrative that couldn’t be timelier and deserves the widest possible audience.