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"You feel like people want you to fail." Chanel Miller on testifying against Brock Turner.

The following deals with sexual assault, and may be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour support, please call the national sexual assault counselling service, 1800 RESPECT, on 1800 737 732.

The world knew Chanel Miller’s story long before they knew her name.

She was ‘Emily Doe’, the woman who had survived a 2015 sexual assault at the hands of Stanford University swimmer, Brock Turner. The woman who’d fallen unconscious after a party, and been attacked by Turner until two passersby intervened.

Brock Turner was ultimately found guilty on three charges, including sexual assault with intent to rape. On June 2, 2016, he was sentenced to six months behind bars. He served three.

Following the sentence, Miller shared a searing victim impact statement, which became a beacon to other survivors; “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice,” she famously wrote, “until today.”

In 2019, the 27-year-old shirked anonymity in order to share the entire, ugly truth of what she’s been through.

Now, in an interview with 60 Minutes, Miller is opening up about what it was like to find out details about what happened to her from the media and how it felt to take on Brock Turner in court.

How Chanel Miller found out about her sexual assault.

Speaking to 60 Minutes‘ Karl Stefanovic, Miller said, “I wake up, I am on a gurney, in a hallway, there’s a Dean of Students and a deputy who tell me that I have been sexually assaulted.

“I asked if I could use the restroom and when I did, I discovered that my underwear was missing. I also noticed I had blood on the backs of my hands. So, I knew something was wrong at that point, but I was not prepared to accept a new reality where my life would never be the same.”

Miller found out more about how she was found that night by looking at articles online; it was through digital media that she learned that her bottom, vagina and breasts were exposed when she was discovered.

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“The worst part was not even them learning of it, but that I had to learn at the same time, that there was a comment section.

“Instead of someone looking me in the eye and saying, ‘This shouldn’t have happened to you, you deserve safety and privacy and comfort.’ I was given the exact opposite message, which was that I was deserving, that I was reckless, that I was not intelligent, that I didn’t deserve to be cared for.”

Chanel Miller. Image: 60 Minutes and Nine.
"People were upset, people were outraged," says Chanel Miller. Image: 60 Minutes and Nine.

Chanel Miller's court case.

Despite the fact Miller knew Turner was guilty, she began to doubt herself over the year and a half it took for her case to be heard in court.

Last year, in an interview with 60 Minutes in the US, Miller detailed what it was like to speak her truth in court; a process, she describes in her book Know My Name, as "not a quest for justice but a test of endurance".

It began with having to come face-to-face with Turner for the first time since that night.

Watch: Chanel Miller on 60 Minutes in the United States. Post continues below.

Video via CBS
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"I think it is terrifying to have to be forced to be in such close proximity with a person who hurt you. You feel like people want you to fail. And that’s a really difficult thing to push up against when you’re in such a vulnerable state," Miller told Stefanovic.

Chanel went on to tell the Today show host that her sister, who was also present at the party that night, was called in to testify - and the defence attorney made them both 'eat away at themselves internally'.

"And that was the turning point where I thought, all right, this is it. I’m going to fight for myself, I understand what they’re doing and I will do everything it takes to get us back to where we are seen."

Elaborating in the previous interview for 60 Minutes, Miller said that what followed felt like a secondary assault. Photos were shown to the courtroom of her unconscious, half-naked body. Turner changed his entire story to claim she had consented. And his lawyers hounded her over what seemed like "meaningless facts".

"I just know that he was found humping my un-moving body, and I was being asked what the name was of the taqueria that I went to for dinner and if I had one taco," she said. "[Turner's lawyer asked] 'Are you sure? Did you have anything to drink? No? Not even water? How often do you FaceTime your boyfriend?'"

Brock Turner. Image: Greene County Sheriff's Office.

Miller said she cried so hard during her time on the stand that she was excused to go to the bathroom. She described these moments as her "favourite" part of the process: "because then I finally get a break, and I can breathe for one second," she said, fighting back tears. "But then you go back in, and it just continues.

"Instead of investigating the crime that's at hand, we interrogate the victim and go after her character and pick her apart and openly defile and debase her. And you just have to sit on the stand while this is happening," she said.

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"Nobody is handing you a tissue. Nobody is standing up for you. You're just getting ripped apart."

"How can you explain that?" Turner's shocking sentence.

When Turner's shocking six-month sentence was handed down, Miller admits she felt "like I had just poured my guts all over the floor and that I was being told like 'what is that? This is not a big deal'."

In handing down the sentence, Judge Aaron Persky acknowledged Turner's 'good character', the fact he had been drinking the night of the assault, and the impact a longer prison term would have on the young man's life.

To Miller — and many observers — the sentence came as a complete shock. Especially given prosecutors had sought a term of six years.

"There are young men, particularly young men of colour, serving longer sentences for non-violent crimes, for having a teenie-weenie bit of marijuana in their pockets," Miller said. "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?"

Brock Turner was released from Santa Clara County Jail on September 2 that year due to good behaviour. He'd spent just three months behind bars.

The outcry over Turner's sentence and early release went far beyond that courtroom.

Persky became the first judge to be recalled in California in 80 years following an intensive public campaign, and the definition of rape under the state's law was expanded to include any kind of penetration. (Turner had avoided a rape charge because he had digitally penetrated Miller, rather than forced intercourse.)

There is also now a mandatory three-year minimum prison sentence for penetrating an unconscious or intoxicated person.

Yet back when Chanel Miller's assault was first reported in the media, she read comments beneath an article that were littered with questions about why she was at the party, why she was alone, why she was so drunk. Some declared that what had happened to her wasn't rape.

To them, and all those who share that mindset, she has this message:

"Rape is not a punishment for getting drunk. 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."

60 Minutes airs Sundays at 8.30pm after Married at First Sight on Channel Nine.

This post was first published in 2019 and has been updated.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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