Discussion Questions – “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller

  1. What was your overall impression of this book?
  2. Many of us heard about this case in the news. Did your perspective on the case change after reading her memoir? In what ways?
  3. After reading about Miller’s experiences throughout the trial, what surprised you most about what a survivor experiences going through the court system?
  4. When we talk about consent, we often emphasize the importance of a “no.” But as Miller writes, “why do we assume a “yes” in the absence of a no?” What more can we be doing as a community and society to teach what the true meaning of consent is?
  5. Immediately after the assault, Miller knows she never wants to see the man who raped her again. And yet in order for him to be punished, again and again she had to face him. In order to stay available for ever-changing court dates, Miller felt like her life was on hold, and shied away from making future plans. What other ways did seeking justice make healing harder for her?
  6. Miller points out many times that while trying to rebuild her life, she was forced to deal with micro-aggressions and threatening men, experiences that reinforced her already intense fears. In what ways could pop culture and its harmful portrayals of sexual assault impact a survivors healing?
  7. Turner was found guilty of three felonies, including assault with the intent to commit rape. His sentence was six months in county jail, probation and registration as a sex offender. Turner served three months. Do you agree with this sentence? If not, what do you think would have been more appropriate? What message do you feel this sends to survivors?
  8. Miller illuminates the role that financial capital and white privilege played in her case and others covered by the media. She wrote that she “didn’t know money could make the cell doors swing open.” Do you think the sentence would have differed had the attacker been a black custodian instead of a white student?
  9. Toward the end of the book, Miller describes a protracted tug of war with Stanford over a plaque that was to be placed at the scene of her assault, now a small garden with two benches. There was supposed to be a plaque engraved with a quote from Miller’s victim impact statement, but Stanford would not approve any of the passages she suggested, because they were not uplifting enough. “As a survivor, I feel a duty to provide a realistic view of the complexity of recovery,” Miller writes. “It is not my responsibility to alchemize what he did into healing words society can digest. I do not exist to be the eternal flame, the beacon, the flowers that bloom in your garden.” Do you think Stanford should have done more to support Miller? In what ways?
  10. Miller highlights her feelings of forgiveness as a way to explain that rehabilitation of perpetrators can prevent future hurt towards others. Although she explains that she does not believe criminal behavior should go unpunished, she does believe in rehabilitation of perpetrators. Many survivors don’t want criminal charges brought against their perpetrators, but wish for them to acknowledge the hurt they caused, apologize, and change their behaviors. What are your thoughts on alternatives to prison for perpetrators of sexual assault such as restorative justice or clinical treatment?
  11. Miller shares her experience of losing her identity after her assault, feeling nameless, and being defined by the worst thing that happened to her. This is a common experience for survivors of sexual assault, which causes them to feel dehumanized. What are some ways that you think colleges, legal systems, or the police can change policies to support and empower survivors more?