Know My Name

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When a friend of mine recommended this book on Facebook, I knew I had to read it. I purchased the audio copy of the book on Audible and began to listen. Although the content of the book is heavy, Know My Name makes an important contribution to the conversations about sexual assault and the legal system.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Chanel Miller was known around the world as the woman who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner. Although her victim impact statement was published under a fictitious name to protect her safety and privacy, Chanel’s letter made waves around the world. Her letter and Turner’s lenient sentence became a topic of conversation across the globe.

In this memoir, Chanel writes about her entire experience. She reflects on the party where the assault happened, waking up in the hospital evidence, and everything that went into the long trial. Chanel writes about how it felt seeing her story in the news, as well as her worry that loved ones would react negatively if they knew that she was Brock Turner’s victim.

The #MeToo Movement

Chanel writes about the #MeToo movement and who it’s terribly misunderstood. Some people see #MeToo statements as attention-seeking. However, Chanel reflects on her own experience and how remaining silent became an unbearable burden. Speaking out and sharing her story wasn’t about getting revenge, but about making it bearable to talk about (and live with) what happened.

I’ve never publically shared this story. When was a young teenager, a friend’s adult male relative slapped me on the butt to “wake me up” when I’d fallen asleep on a chair. I was horrified, but brushed it off. There were other things going on in my life.

Yet as I got older, this incident bothered me more and more. Was it one stupid moment in his life, or does he do this to other young girls? Since his job gives him access to underage girls, I’ve often worried about whether my silence allows him to do even worse things.

There are lots of questions I have about sharing this. In fact, my worrying about how this story may impact others is a large factor that’s kept this blog post in the “drafting” phase for so many months. What will people think of me? If the exact details got out, would it hurt my friend and other people in this man’s family?

Then again, is it worth staying up at night and wondering if he’s changed?

I get it. I understand why women speak up twenty or thirty years after something happened. It really can take that long to make the decision to tell. Sharing this story isn’t my way of seeking attention, but my way of sharing some insight into this issue.

Broken Trust Beyond the Rape Itself

Chanel’s book talks a lot about how rape isn’t just about breaking the trust you have for the opposite sex, but about breaking the trust you had surrounding your safety in public spaces.

Rape is about broken trust from systems that are supposed to help you. Chanel reflects on how she did everything right. She got a physical exam and filed a police report within hours. Her case was taken to court and her rapist even got convicted. But even though she’s one of the “lucky ones,” her rapist only spent three months in jail for his violent offense. The system failed.

Chanel writes about frustrating conversations she had with people about her case. Standford University reached out to her about building a garden in Chanel’s honor, with a quote of her choice. The quotes she shared weren’t as upbeat as the officials wanted. Frustrated, Chanel reflects, “Victims identify with pain more than platitudes.” Until people can sit with the discomfort of intense grief, true healing cannot happen.

I was in a physically and sexually abusive relationship in high school. When I told two of my closest friends about what happened, one of them told a distorted version of the story to everyone we knew. She claimed that I made up the abuse in an attempt to get a boy to like me. When I finally told an adult about it, her words were: “Faith, I thought you were smarter than that.” Another friend stopped talking to me altogether.

The failures of others in the aftermath of the abuse were a hundred times worse than the abuse itself. I felt seen and validated by Chanel’s frustration about this part of the experience.

Small Miracles

The book isn’t all depressing, though. Chanel writes about the small miracles she experienced, even on the worst days of her life. She remembers the two college studies who were passing on bikes, who pulled Brock off of her and later testified at the trial.

She also remembers a kind nurse, the kind victim advocates, and the court stenographer who gave her the emotional support she needed to get through the trial. Even though some horrific things happened, those small miracles are worth noting.

Review Breakdown

Writing – The writing was amazing. Even though the content was raw, it was clearly edited and presented in a clear and cohesive manner.

Story – Chanel’s story is compelling. Even though her case has been explored in the media, readers get a closer and more complete look at the situation in her memoir.

Mature Content – There’s a lot of very mature content. There’s a lot of profanity (which, in this case, is warranted) as well as sexually explicit content. Chanel also gives graphic descriptions of the medical treatment after her rape. There’s no way to discuss these topics without the mature content, though. However, I strongly recommend against providing this book to children and young teenagers.

Likability of Author – I found Chanel very likable. She was strong-willed and stubborn, but she also cared about others. In the aftermath of her rape, she was much more concerned about her little sister’s well-being than her own.

BONUS Audiobook Review – I always enjoy listening to audiobooks read by the author, since it allows me to listen to the book and hear the words the way they were meant to sound. It allowed me to get even closer to how she was feeling, which made me feel even more connected to this story.

Quick Review

Know My Name by Chanel Miller is a must-read book, especially for survivors of sexual assault. Chanel powerfully writes about the experience of a rape survivor. She reflects on the rape itself and its aftermath, giving the reader a glimpse of what victims experience. Although there’s a lot of mature content in this book, I highly recommend it.

I Will Find You

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I Will Find You is a compelling and well-written memoir about a journalist’s journey to find out what brought her and her rapist together on the day of her attack. Joanna Connors writes her heartbreaking tale about how her rape changed the way she lived for over twenty years.

I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
I Will Find You by Joanna Connors

Joanna was thirty years old when she was raped by David Francis at a University theater where she had gone to get a story as part of her job as a journalist. It was by catching a glimpse of his tattoo that she was able to give a compelling description to police. They were able to catch him a day later returning to the scene of the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to thirty to seventy years in prison. But even with her rapist behind bars, Joanna went on to live in fear. A year after the rape, she had her first child with her husband. Unintentionally, she hovered over her two children excessively, afraid that they may fall into harm’s way.

After a college campus visit with her daughter, Joanna realized that she needed to put her fear to rest. She would find David Francis and find out what made him into a rapist. Although he told her that he would find her (a thought that once filled her with dread), she was now determined to find him. She gathered the court documents from her trial. Among them, she found his records and found out he had died several years prior. Although she was relieved that she would not have to face him, she also knew that she would not have all of her answers. Joanna found out that David and his siblings had been abused terribly by his father. This abuse, along with an older man willing to mentor David in crime, may have been contributing factors in David’s outcome.

Joanna powerfully reflects on the journey many survivors go through.

I found myself echoing so many of Joanna’s thoughts and words throughout her story. Although our stories are very different, the emotional toll it took is similar. Joanna is one of the rare cases of a rape committed by a stranger, while my abuse was carried out over a period of nine months by someone I knew. Yet there were several times that her reflected thoughts could have easily been my own.

Joanna reflected throughout the book about her guilt over the rape. She wrote that she blamed herself, even though she would have never blamed someone else in her shoes. Her guilt intensified when the attorney prosecuting her case asked her why she went into the empty building. When I opened up about my abuse, an adult I trusted said, “I thought you were smarter than that.” When they said these things, it only confirmed what we were already thinking: “This is my fault.”

“It was not your fault, even if you were drunk, even if you were wearing a low-cut minidress, even if you were out walking along at night, even if you were on a date with the rapist and kind of liked him but didn’t want to have sex with him.”

Joanna Connors

Joanna also reflected on the fearfulness she felt after her rape. Because of this, she developed a fear of everything around her, to the point that she could not function like she did before. While years of counseling have made that fearfulness less constant in my life, there are still times when I feel afraid for reasons I cannot explain. Men I do not know sometimes make me wary. I startle easily. I’m fortunate that the fear lessens over time, but when it is there, it is very apparent.

Joanna wanted to find out what made her rapist the way he was.

Instead of writing David Francis off as a “bad man,” Joanna wanted to find out what made him the way he was. On her journey, she found out about the abuse he endured at the hands of his father. She found his two sisters, both of which had also been rape victims themselves. Joanna found that in his vulnerability, David was mentored by an older criminal and jailed as a juvenile. In jail, it is possible that he himself was sexually abused.

While not all people who are abused become abusers themselves, those who commit these crimes have often been hurt terribly by other people. Although it is merely anecdotal evidence, the young man who abused me had been abused terribly as a child. I believe that the abuse he endured could easily have been the reason for his actions against me.

Quick Review:

I Will Find You is a very powerful book. It is very emotional. It also has mature content. Joanna Connors spends a chapter going into detail describing her rape, so I would not recommend this book for younger audiences, sensitive audiences, or for recent survivors of sexual assault. Additionally, there was some language throughout the book. It was a very good look at one woman’s journey to find answers about what made her rapist into the man he was. As a survivor myself, I enjoyed the rawness of her reflections of what it looks like to cope with a sexual assault.