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"Nobody's handing you a tissue": 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. The woman whose searing victim impact statement 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.”

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

Video via CBS

In an interview with 60 Minutes in the US ahead of the release of her book about the case, Miller detailed what it was like to speak that truth in court; a process, she describes in 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.

“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,” she said.

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.
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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.

"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.

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.

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," Chanel 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.

Perksy 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 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."

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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