I originally planned to make this post a normal review. I had already purchased this book off of pre-order as soon as I learned of its existence, and I was mentally preparing myself to read it. Within the first 20 pages of this book, I learned that there will never be enough mental preparedness to get ready to read the morning after a rape. I wanted to take you guys on the journey with me, through thoughts, tears, and vomit. So here goes nothing:
TRIGGER WARNING: This is the story of a woman after rape. It is extremely descriptive and hard to handle for most. Read at your own risk.
Like most people, I had heard of the Brock Turner case, especially at the conclusion of his trial. I read the impact statement written by the victim, named Emily Doe. I was outraged that the media was more concerned by his swimming lap times instead of the fact he just raped someone. I was outraged that people were calling him a “good boy” when he literally just did a heinous act. I was angry for the victim, this nameless girl, who got no adjectives, no history. I was distraught that Turner got such a small sentence, 6 months, which he only had to serve 3. My heart is broken, and I stand with Emily Doe. About a month ago, 60 Minutes did an interview with Chanel Miller about her new book which details her truth during the aftermath of the sexual assault. I didn’t even think twice, I went straight to Amazon and purchased the book. So let’s get into my thoughts:
Sunday, September 29th, 2:51 pm, page 42
I have almost vomited 3 times already. Since I was a little kid, I have hated my body. I have been ashamed of it, and Chanel seemed to feel very similarly. Trying to imagine 3 women pulling at my skin, taking pictures, putting ointments, dyes, and whatever else on and in my body is making my hands shake just typing this. And no one told her why this was all happening. This girl is forced to sign papers already labeling her a rape victim and she doesn’t even know when and how she got there. And to find out what happened to you in a news article. It’s just heartbreaking, and all I want is to hug this girl and tell her she doesn’t have to be strong, because that’s exactly what she is doing. Being strong for her sister who puts the blame on herself. It just hurts me to read it, but I also want to learn how I can be a better ally for someone who goes through this. I don’t want anyone who goes through this to ever feel alone, because I am here and I am someone you can talk to.
Sunday, September 29th, 4:05 pm, page 75
We live in a digital age, where we can hide behind a computer screen and think we can say anything we want without repercussion. We have all heard stories of cyberbullying, and there have been shows, movies, books, and all around media created to discuss the effects on the victims. To have people who blamed Chanel for drinking, or that she was just blaming Turner because she was embarrassed, or any of the other incredibly ignorant posts is incredibly sad. But more so, it is so hard for a victim to continue to feel like it is their fault. And to hear how broken she became, to the point of calling suicide hotlines, is heartbreaking. There are no other words to describe it.
“I told my boss I was at a doctor’s appointment, but it ended up feeling like a job interview. They were deciding if I would make a good victim.” -page 57
On top of that, Chanel is a freaking beast emotionally. This girl has gone through dealing with the suicides of many of her classmates, some as often as 4 in 6 months, a school shooting, and now a sexual assault. Do not mess with this girl because she is stronger than anyone I have ever known.
“I learned it was expensive to be assaulted.” -page 68
Sunday, September 29th, 5:47 pm, page 125
One of the things that Chanel talks about is how catcalling became a trigger for her fear and anger. It’s the idea of losing her freedom, to not be able to walk around, for fear that someone could come out and attack her. As a woman, I have always been told to keep my head facing forward, to not acknowledge strangers’ catcalls, to carry pepper spray or a taser. I was told to put my defenses up, and I have never been sexually assaulted. Imagine what that is like for someone who has.
“I do not include the victims’ names here, for names are sacred, and I do not want them identified solely by what [the attacker] did to them.”– page 90
Chanel also chose at this point to seek therapy for her anger and sadness in the wake of the assault. One of the most impactful moments in this section for me was when Chanel felt so proud and confident of her testimony, only to read about it in the news and how they took the 300+ questions into a statement against her. It is almost like, what do you want her to do?
Sunday, September 29th, 9:12 pm, page 189
Within this section, we see Chanel experience her first week of the trial. We follow the power moves, the ups and downs, the guilt, and ultimately, the fight. Chanel in this week went from just trying to get by to “I will eat you alive”. The anger, guilt, and fear for her family and friends that are forced to stand up in court and defend their actions is completely raw and powerful, and it is so empowering to read. To also have so many of her friends come out and say “I have been assaulted, too, and I wish I had the opportunity you have” is so compelling.
“Whenever I am underestimated, I think, you mistake my quietness for weakness.” -page 131
“If you pay enough money, if you say the right things, if you take enough time to weaken and dilute the truth, the sun could slowly begin to look like an egg [yolk].” -page 150
At this point, I am going to call it quits for the night, and I will see you all after work tomorrow.
Monday, September 30th, 6:15 pm, page 245
I am currently watching a YouTube comedy video in order to try and not throw up as I talk about this. When we start this section, we learn about Turner’s testimony. He said that she said yes every step of the way. Even so, Chanel was clearly completely out of it. For the defense to completely switch her words in order to make their point is absolutely disgusting.
“He had given himself permission to enter me again, this time stuffing words in my mouth. He made me his real-life ventriloquist doll, out his hands inside me and made me speak.” -page 192
For his coach, french teacher, or best friend to decide whether or not he is a rapist is not the purpose of the trial. They aren’t there when he is sexual situations. Of anyone, his ex-girlfriend is the only character witness that I understand. But even then, why does Turner get character witnesses while Chanel is degraded every step of the way.
“Bad qualities can hide inside a good person.” -page 194
From here, we move on to the victory lap. 3 felony counts found guilty. After the verdict, Chanel opened a letter from a woman in Ohio stating that she stands with Chanel. From all walks of life, people stood beside this woman, this victim, Chanel, and that is so beautiful and powerful.
“This victory would be celebrated in rooms in towns in states I had never been to.” -page 212
And then, we fall. Based on past experiences, Chanel asked that Turner get the help he needed. That included therapy and rehabilitation. She did not mean that he would not serve time in jail/prison, but that is exactly what the probation officer interpreted her meaning. He requested the judge to only give Turner 6 months of jail time, which could be halved to only 3 months served. And then the impact statement comes into play. Within the actual narrative, Chanel does not post her statement. It is, however, located at the end of the book. After such a power moment, comes Turner’s father. 20 minutes of action. That is the only phrase we should care about. 20 minutes. In all my times of working out, I have to remind myself every single second that this is something I should do, and it that decision only affects me. You can’t tell me that we do not make a decision to continue doing what we are doing every minute of every day. He had at least 20 decisions in that time, and he STILL chose to continue. As a parent, you chose to love your child no matter what, but I can’t imagine learning all of this about my child. 20 minutes. 20 minutes to ruin all of these people’s lives. It’s disgusting.
“In swimming, one one-hundredth of a second is the difference between victory and loss. Yet they wanted to write off twenty minutes as insignificant.” -page 235
Tuesday, October 1st, 9;10 pm, end of book
“I believe, out of the millions who knew I was brave and important, I was the last to know it.” -page 251
This section is initially positive. We see the impact of her words for the other survivors across the globe. Letter after letter of outpouring and support. People cared about what she said. Chanel moved on, found a new life for herself.
“We live in a time where it has become difficult to distinguish between the President’s words, and that of a nineteen-year-old assailant.” -page 278
We then take a walk from the other high profile sexual assault allegations/lawsuits from the time after her trial. These include President Trump’s “locker room talk”, Cosby, Weinstein, Nassar, and eventually, Kavanaugh. The impact of women standing up, saying “we will not back down”, is an important milestone of our society. It is still an uphill climb to report sexual assault, but we also live in a world that is much more understanding than a few years ago.
“My advice is, if he’s worried about his reputation, don’t rape anybody.” -page 283
We also learn about Brock’s attempt at appeal. Almost 1/3rd of the appeal was about how she was drunk. That’s when you know you got nothing. Ultimately that appeal was denied.
“For Brock, his goal was to integrate, for me it was to isolate.” -page 271
Finally, we see Stanford’s response to the sexual assault case. They were willing to turn the area where the dumpsters were into a garden where students were to study. They were not willing to post a quote from the impact statement that was not hopeful. There will not be a statement of the plaque in the garden. I have talked a lot about hope in this section, but don’t forget that the backbone of hope is despair.
I don’t have a good way to conclude this post, nor do I feel like this book requires a rating system. What I will say is that I am not always a great person, and I often times am awkward and confused, but I will do my best to stand beside any person who is in need (probably with a complaint or two because that’s my specialty). I will give you sass, and I probably will make inappropriate jokes to help cope, but I will never blatantly turn my back to you. You know where to find me if you need to talk, and I hope you use those resources. Thank you for going on this journey with me.
If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!