The 27-year-old majored in literature at UC Santa Barbara and has wanted to be a writer since she was a child. She decided to relive the most painful experience of her life because she believes her story, filtered through the glare of the media and restrictive lens of the courtroom, remains untold.
Bill Whitaker: Yeah, I'm sure it wasn't your top choice to write a book about this.
Chanel Miller: It's not the topic I would've chosen. But it was the topic I was given.
We were there when she recorded her audiobook.
CHANEL READING AUDIOBOOK: In January 2015, I was 22, living and working in my hometown of Palo Alto, California. I attended a party at Stanford.
She didn't attend Stanford University, but she grew up in its shadow.
Bill Whitaker: Why'd you decide to go to a fraternity party? You were out of college at that time.
Chanel Miller: My sister was home for the weekend and it was my way of spending time with her.
Bill Whitaker: So people were drinking?
Chanel Miller: Yes. A lotta red cups like a typical fraternity scene.
Bill Whitaker: Do you remember having fun at the party? What were you doing?
Chanel Miller: I was dancing on top of a chair. And my sister was sort of coaxing me down to stop embarrassing her.
Chanel has never denied she drank a combination of whiskey, vodka and champagne.
Bill Whitaker: You drank until you blacked out?
Chanel Miller: Uh-huh.
She came to about four hours later in a hospital surrounded by nurses and a police deputy. She had abrasions all over her body. Her hair was tangled with pine needles.
Chanel Miller: I had no idea how to put those pieces together.
Bill Whitaker: How did they tell you what they thought had happened?
Chanel Miller: All they said was that I had been found and that somebody had been arrested. And that he had been chased down because he had been acting hinky. "Hinky" was the word the detective used.
Bill Whitaker: Did they tell you where you were found?
Chanel Miller: Behind a dumpster.
What they didn't tell her was that her underwear and cell phone were found on the ground by her body. They also didn't tell her there were witnesses, two of them, who not only saw the attack, they stopped it. Swedish grad students Peter Jonsson and Carl Arndt were riding their bikes to the party that night when they saw something disturbing behind the dumpster outside the frat house.
Peter Jonsson: We see a couple lying on the ground, with one person on top of the other.
Carl Arndt: He was moving a lot. But we just saw her lying there completely still.
They realized the woman was unconscious. Jonsson says when he approached them, the man, later identified as Brock Turner, got up and ran.
Peter Jonsson: I didn't really have time to think so I just chased after him. I remember quite vividly. Like, I was on his left side. And I got my right leg in front of him. And then I took my body, my upper body and threw him over my leg and down on the ground.
Bill Whitaker: So Carl, you go over to help Peter hold Brock Turner down?
Carl Arndt: Yes. He was trying to get loose.
Bill Whitaker: He was squirming trying to get away?
Carl Arndt: Yeah
Bill Whitaker: Did he seem drunk? Peter Jonsson: Not super drunk, like he could talk.
Carl Arndt: And he clearly could run.
They held him until police arrived. They also checked on Chanel.
Peter Jonsson: She was completely unconscious.
Carl Arndt: I was trying to, like, shake her and nothing happened.
Chanel was taken by ambulance to the hospital in San Jose. Early that morning, she was examined and told she may have been sexually assaulted. The deputy asked if she'd be willing to undergo a rape kit test. She agreed.
Bill Whitaker: Did it sink in? The gravity of your situation?
Chanel Miller: Absolutely not. I just thought I had passed out somewhere and that there was a suspicious man at the party who had behaving in an odd way. I had no idea that he was connected directly to me in any way.
Chanel's sister, who had left the party early and had been frantically calling and looking for her, got a call from Chanel at the hospital and came to pick her up. The sisters agreed not to tell anyone, not even their parents, until Chanel knew more. For ten long days, she heard nothing— not from the hospital, police, a counselor. Nobody.
Bill Whitaker: What's going through your head?
Chanel Miller: In order to survive, you just shut everything down. You have to function. You have to go to work in the morning. So it's much easier to just repress everything. Of course, I had questions. I woke up and didn't have underwear. Why is that? No one tells me where it went. But you just have to keep living.
Then one morning at her job at a small tech start-up in Silicon Valley, this item popped up on her newsfeed. The words "Stanford," "rape," and "intoxicated, unconscious woman" lept off the screen. She knew it was her. And she learned for the first time that her assailant had penetrated her, with his fingers at the very least.
Bill Whitaker: That's how you found out what happened to you?
Chanel Miller: Yes.
Bill Whitaker: Reading an article online?
Chanel Miller: Yes. It was surreal having the news broken to me by the internet. I was alone, sitting at my desk, surrounded by coworkers, reading about how I was stripped and then penetrated and discarded in a bed of pine needles behind a dumpster. And that's how I figured out all of those elements. And they all added up. And I finally understood.
Bill Whitaker: The name Brock Turner was mentioned in the article. Had you heard his name before?
Chanel Miller: Never. The first thing I did after reading the article was read the comments. And there were many hateful words.
Bill Whitaker: What were some of the comments?
Chanel Miller: "What was she doing at a frat party? This isn't really rape. Why was she alone? She's the predator 'cause she's older. Why would you ever get that drunk?" It was endless.
Bill Whitaker: So what do you say to those critics? People who say, "You did drink until you blacked out. You did make yourself vulnerable." What do you say to those people?
Chanel Miller: Rape is not a punishment for getting drunk. And we have this really sick mindset in our culture, as if you deserve rape if you drink to excess. You deserve a hangover, a really bad hangover, but you don't deserve to have somebody insert their body parts inside of you.
The day the news broke, she received a call. It was deputy district attorney Alaleh Kianerci, who told Chanel she would be handling the case.
Bill Whitaker: Were there specific elements of this case that stood out to you?
Alaleh Kianerci: I mean, the entirety of it, the fact that it was a Stanford swimmer, who was an Olympic hopeful. Really a privileged athlete and student, so that stood out. The fact that it was so very clear to anyone who encountered Chanel that evening that she was not conscious, that she was super intoxicated. So she was in no position to consent.
Bill Whitaker: What did his privilege and Stanford have to do with making this more difficult to prosecute?
Alaleh Kianerci: A lotta people were looking at what Brock Turner had to lose, versus what he did to Chanel. And so the narrative changed. We were almost on the defense, explaining why Chanel got too intoxicated instead of focusing the attention on, why did he think it was okay? Why did he think that he could take advantage of her when she was in such a vulnerable state?
The case received international attention. The media couldn't resist the story of the fallen athlete from one of America's most prestigious schools. To protect her identity, Chanel was dubbed "Emily Doe." Turner was almost always identified by his accomplishments in the pool.
Bill Whitaker: When you saw the description of him as a champion swimmer on the Stanford swim team, what did you think of that?
Chanel Miller: I didn't understand why it was relevant when you're also reporting that my lower half was completely exposed. That my necklace was wrapped around my neck. That my hair was disheveled. That my bra was only covering one breast and the rest was pulled outta my dress. I don't understand why it is relevant how quickly he can move across a body of water in the context of that article.
Bill Whitaker: Did you feel that that description of him as a championship swimmer sort of changed the narrative?
Chanel Miller: Yes. They were framing it like he had so much to lose and were not focusing on what had already been lost, for me.
By then, she had told her boyfriend and parents. But despite their love and support, she felt alone. Chanel told us she became angry, withdrawn, and deeply depressed.
Chanel Miller: I would just sit at work and do nothing. I would stare at the screen, and then I would come home and I wouldn't sleep. And so physically, I began breaking down.
She didn't want anyone to know she was "Emily Doe," the woman in the news. Four years later, the trauma remains just below the surface.
Chanel Miller: I felt if anyone ever found out that that was me, that it would be absolutely humiliating. I felt dirty and embarrassed. I, my dream is to write children's books. I felt no parent is going to want me as a role model, if I'm just the discarded, drunk, half-naked body behind a dumpster. Nobody wants to be that.
Bill Whitaker: How did you carry on?
Chanel Miller: Well, when I was reliving all of this, I thought, "Well, the same night the assault happened, a miracle also happened," which was that I was saved. And thinking of the two Swedes who knew to do the right thing, and who wanted me really to be okay, always gave me hope.
Bill Whitaker: So, they changed the story?
Chanel Miller: They changed the story. They changed the entire trajectory of my life.
Chanel Miller was at the center of one of the most high-profile and consequential trials in recent memory. She was sexually assaulted in 2015 by Brock Turner, a former Stanford University athlete, now a convicted felon. Known during the contentious trial as Emily Doe, a name used to protect her identity, Chanel Miller would become an anonymous icon for assault survivors the world over. Tonight, in her first television interview, Chanel Miller takes us back to 2016, as the trial approached for the then 23-year-old.
Bill Whitaker: What was it like when you finally realized that you were going to have to face Brock Turner in court?
Chanel Miller: It was absolute dread. And I went to a therapist, almost like a personal trainer, and said, "You have three weeks to get me mentally ready." But until then I thought, "You have to drag me into the courtroom, 'cause I'm not going to go."
The case would become a media maelstrom. Chanel Miller told us that as bad as the previous 14 months had been, nothing prepared her for the cold, adversarial and intimidating atmosphere inside the courtroom.
Chanel Miller: I remember standing outside the courtroom doors and there's a very thin sliver of window in the door where you can look in. And I remember seeing the back of Brock's head and his neck. And I thought, wow, this is, this is him.
Alaleh Kianerci: It is incredibly difficult for a victim of sexual assault to walk into court in front of their perpetrator and recount the worst thing that happened to them in a room full of strangers.
Deputy district attorney Alaleh Kianerci had charged Brock Turner with three felony sex crimes. Rape charges were dropped because there was no evidence of intercourse, which was required in California at the time. But she was convinced she had a strong case because of the two Swedish eyewitnesses.
Alaleh Kianerci: They were integral. Without them we would not know the identity of Brock Turner. They chased him down. And they physically held him down until police arrived. He's an athlete. This is somebody who got into school because of his, you know, physical prowess. And these are two engineering grad students. And they're really the most important reason why Chanel didn't suffer a more devastating sexual assault. Because I believe, and I argued this to the jury, that had they not stopped him he would've completed the, the rape.
Bill Whitaker: So what was the hardest part about making your case to the jury?
Alaleh Kianerci: Chanel had no memory. She was completely unconscious or too intoxicated to remember the immediate moments before. So we had a perpetrator who was able to write the script.
Turner's first draft of that script was his police interrogation, conducted just hours after the attack. He told a detective he met Chanel outside the frat house, they started kissing, and that he followed her, holding hands, behind the dumpster. He said he placed his hand between her legs and she seemed to enjoy it. He also told police he didn't recall running when the Swedish grad students interrupted them.
But when Turner got on the witness stand 14 months later, his story changed. Now he said he recalled meeting and dancing with Chanel inside the fraternity, asking her to go back to his dorm room, leaving together, slipping and falling and laughing. Then he said he specifically asked her if he could touch her, intimately, and she said "yes." And now he admitted running from the Swedish grad students, who he claimed attacked him.
Chanel Miller: I thought you were bound by the truth. I thought those are the rules. That's how court works.
Bill Whitaker: You wrote that this version of events sounded like a poorly written young adult novel.
Chanel Miller: Yes. There was a lot of tumbling and laughing.
Bill Whitaker: Sounds at great odds with what he said shortly after having been arrested.
Chanel Miller: It was all completely new. He had written a new narrative.
Bill Whitaker: So, in this new narrative you're in agreement?
Chanel Miller: The new narrative was extremely convenient because he needed consent. He needed the word, "Yes."
Turner would add one more lurid detail, he claimed under oath that she had climaxed.
Chanel Miller: Oh I was livid. I didn't understand why it had been allowed to go that far. Bill Whitaker: I think you told us before that you felt as though you had been assaulted a second time.
Chanel Miller: I felt like I was assaulted multiple times. Every time you're reliving this.
Chanel Miller: Like this is the list of body parts submitted as evidence.
The trial took its toll. The barrage of questions, the mortifying photos of her half-naked and unconscious body shown in open court and, worst she says, Turner's defense attorney constantly objecting and cutting her off to make her words fit his narrative.
Chanel Miller: And I remember in court, the defense attorney always said, "Chanel has no memory. Chanel has no memory." And I remember sitting there and thinking, "I will remember everything. I will remember every remark. I will remember the lighting inside this courtroom. I will remember the texture of the defense attorney's hair. I will remember the depth of the pain you made me feel. I will remember it. And I will record it. And I will write it so that it will not be lost."
Chanel poured all those memories, feelings, and frustrations into her memoir, "Know My Name." With anguish and humor, she takes on a criminal justice system she says fails the most vulnerable.
Bill Whitaker: I want to read something you wrote. "This was not a quest for justice but a test of endurance. Swearing under oath was just a made-up promise. Honesty was for children." That's what the courtroom experience felt like to you?
Chanel Miller: Yes. After Brock's testimony, it felt like all rules had been abandoned. He will go to any end to come out of this without a guilty conviction. And for me, it felt like how many times can we make her relive this.
Bill Whitaker: After all those traumatic days, you get the verdict. Tell me about the verdict.
Chanel Miller: My heart was beating extremely loud. It was deafening. It was really hard for me to focus. And I was just waiting for the sound of guilty.
And she heard it. All 12 jurors found Brock Turner guilty of all three felony counts. But it wasn't over. The sentencing was two months away, and Chanel was asked by the deputy DA to write a victim impact statement, a letter to the judge to inform his decision.
Chanel Miller: It's basically documentation of your thoughts and feelings throughout this process. And I majored in literature, which was basically four years of talking about my feelings and reading about other people's feelings. So I thought, wow, there's an assignment that exists in the world that I was made to do.
She had been keeping notes on her iphone throughout the process. And in one impassioned all-nighter she wove them into a defiant, first-person narrative. A few days before the sentencing, she gave it to the prosecutor.
Alaleh Kianerci: When I first read her letter I immediately shared it with people because I thought, "This is so good. This is what we see victims go through, what we know that they go through, but it's never been summarized in such an articulate and profound way."
Chanel recently read those words for her audiobook.
CHANEL READING STATEMENT: Your honor, if it is alright 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.
Chanel spoke directly to her assailant in court. She says she noticed people crying. Brock Turner wouldn't look at her.
CHANEL READING STATEMENT: Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen. I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.
As he handed down his sentence, Judge Aaron Persky acknowledged Chanel's words, but also cited the defendant's good character, the fact that he'd been drinking, and the impact prison would have on his life. Judge Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail, a sentence at the low end of state guidelines. With good behavior, he'd walk free in 90 days.
Bill Whitaker: Your prosecutor had been asking for six years.
Chanel Miller: Yes.
Bill Whitaker: How did that hit you?
Chanel Miller: I was in shock. So you're saying I just put aside a year and a half of my life so he could go to county jail for three months. There are young men, particularly young men of color, serving longer sentences for non-violent crimes, for having a teenie-weenie bit of marijuana in their pockets. And he's just been convicted of three felonies. And he's gonna serve one month for each felony. How can you explain that to me?
Chanel didn't think her voice had been heard, but it had. The news website Buzzfeed asked to publish her impact statement in its entirety. Without giving it much thought, she agreed. Chanel Miller: I didn't think it would take off anywhere. And I actually felt really vulnerable again thinking why am I putting myself out there one last time? You know, who's going to sit and read through this entire thing? But then the views started trickling in and soon it was 100,000, then 500,000. And by the end of the day, it was a million.
Within four days it hit 11 million. By then, her statement had been shared globally, published by newspapers, and read aloud in its entirety on tv. Members of Congress staged readings in the Capitol. And so did people all over the world.
And thousands of emails and letters addressed to "Emily Doe" flooded the courthouse, eventually making their way to her kitchen table.
Bill Whitaker: So these started coming in the next day?
Chanel Miller: The next day. And it was really like medicine. Reading these was like feeling the shame dissolve, you know bringing all the light in.
Bill Whitaker: You heard from a number of survivors? Chanel Miller: So many survivors. And sometimes they would say, "You are the first person I'm telling this to, or this is the first time I've been able to speak in six years." In the wake of the sentencing, there was a national uproar. And after a contentious special election, Judge Aaron Persky became the first judge to be recalled from California's bench in more than 80 years. The case also led to significant changes in California law, setting mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted of assaulting a person who is unconscious or intoxicated and expanding the definition of rape to include nonconsensual sexual penetration.
Alaleh Kianerci: I mean, that's democracy in action. Within 90 days a law was changed, all because of her words and her strength.
Bill Whitaker: What do you think of that?
Alaleh Kianerci: I'm extremely proud of that. I'll take the defeat of a light sentence for a change in the law.
CHANEL READING AUDIOBOOK: Two bills were signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown. Alaleh mailed me a copy of the signed document, like a certificate that granted me the right to sleep peacefully, knowing this botched sentencing would not be repeated. I began to believe again in justice.
After the trial Brock Turner was required to register as a sex offender. His appeal of his felony convictions was unanimously rejected by three judges last year.