Chanel Miller: On Surviving Sexual Assault

Reading this short, powerful essay by Chanel Miller brought me to tears. It made me rethink what “safety” means as being multi-faceted, intricate, and personal.

In the victim realm, we speak of anonymity like a golden shield. To have maintained it for four years was a miracle. But while everyone around me discussed the protection it afforded, no one discussed the cost. Never to speak aloud who you are, what you’re thinking, what’s important to you. I was lonely. I longed to know what it was like not to have to spend all my energy concealing the most heated parts of myself. I kept coming back to a line from one of Lao Tzu’s poems: He who stands on tiptoe doesn’t stand firm. I could not spend my life tiptoeing.

—Chanel Miller

In addition, Miller describes the profound penalty that is paid when knowing that safety is not guaranteed in any direction one takes when experiencing trauma by other human beings.

Whenever I hear a survivor say they wish they’d had the courage to come forward, I instinctively shake my head. It was never about your courage. Fear of retaliation is real. Security is not free. It bothered me that coming forward should feel like heading toward a guillotine. I don’t think most survivors want to live in hiding. We do because silence means safety. Openness means retaliation. Which means it’s not the telling of the stories that we fear, it’s what people will do when we tell our stories. I remember thinking, If anyone finds out they’ll think I’m dirty. We suffer from society’s shallow understanding. Disclosing one’s assault is not an admission of personal failure. Instead, the victim has done us the favor of alerting us to danger in the community. Openness should be embraced.

—Chanel Miller

I’m definitely buying, “Know My Name: A Memoir.”

I just noticed that the theme of the cover is kintsugi: the Japanese art of mending.