Chanel Miller, the author of her 2019 memoir “Know My Name,” visited Michigan State University virtually Nov. 10 to host a webinar for It’s On Us Week of Action. The virtual webinar was an hour-long conversation with Miller about survivorship and her work as an author and artist.
Miller is a writer and artist, who for many years was known under a pseudonym as Emily Doe. Her memoir “Know My Name” reclaims her personal experience of sexual assault as well as her name. Miller also works as an activist since reclaiming her name and telling her story.
It’s On Us Week of Action takes place from Nov. 9 to 13. MSU’s Prevention, Outreach, and Education Department (POE) plans events for It’s On Us Week of Action. The Obama-Biden administration founded the It's On Us initiative in 2014 to combat sexual assault by engaging college students and changing campus culture.
Miller began the webinar by reading an excerpt from her memoir about the decision to come forward with her name. She spoke about going back and forth for many years, only deciding to reveal her identity in the middle of last year when she submitted the manuscript for her memoir.
“At the very beginning, right after I was assaulted, I truly believed that having a happy, semi-normal life and coming forward publicly with that had happened were mutually exclusive,” Miller said. “To me, there was no reality in which I could have a somewhat stable life while also being known as a victim. That reality just didn’t exist at that time.”
Since releasing her book, Miller has found empowerment through a creative lens as she continues to write and pursue her art.
“Everything that I make is a reminder that I have other things to say. … It also reminds me to be playful,” Miller said.
While Miller still finds away to portray her art in a creative perspective, she still feels the weight of living in a world that downplays sexual assault.
“I hate that it’s sort of expected for a victim to put aside his or her life so casually in order to attend to something that they never asked for in the first place,” she said.
In the webinar, Miller went on to describe a few ways in which supporting survivors can combat the fact that sexual assault is so downplayed, specifically on college campuses. For Miller, having a strong support system helped ground her through some of the hardest years of her life.
“There has to be something constant in a reality where everything is changing, and people have the ability to provide that,” Miller said. “You may not be able to control any of the outcomes or what’s coming in externally, but they can be there. And they don’t have to solve everything. They don’t have to heal you. They don’t have to fix what’s happening. They can be there, no matter what state you’re in. So, don’t underestimate the very simple power of presence.”
Miller’s support system helped her feel more comfortable when she was making her decision whether to be named. She said since reclaiming her name and her story being able to be open has been a welcomed change in her life.
“The ability to actually be open about what I’m going through in live time is really exciting for me and something that I never want to put a plug on again,” she said.
Through reclaiming her story, Miller wants everyone to see the real person who was behind Emily Doe. For many years she felt as though she needed to be perfect but that has changed since reclaiming her name.
“I never want to come off as the polished survivor,” Miller said. “I just want everyone to know that I am flawed. … I am flawed, and I’m all over the place, and this still shouldn’t have happened to me and I still want to shove my humanness in people’s faces to say the perfect victim doesn’t exist.”
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