Dear Ms. Miller,
You do not know me, but through the highly publicized trial against your assailant, your profound victim impact statement, and the trauma you have publicly discussed and dissected not as Emily Doe, but as Chanel Miller — your real name — I feel as though I know you. Like you, I am a survivor of sexual assault. But unlike you, I am also a mother, and as a mother there are a few things I would like you to know.
In your interview with 60 Minutes, you told Bill Whitaker that after you were sexually assaulted, throughout the two-week trial, and after your attacker was convicted of three felony sex crimes, you were afraid for anyone outside of your immediate family or boyfriend to know that you were Emily Doe.
"I felt if anyone ever found out that that was me, that it would be absolutely humiliating," you said. "I felt dirty and embarrassed. My dream is to write children's books. I felt no parent is going to want me as a role model if I'm just the discarded, drunk, half-naked body behind a dumpster. Nobody wants to be that."
But you're wrong about all of that.
As a mom, I believe that your courage does make you a role model for children.
And as a mom of a kindergartener, I do want to buy your children's books.
All of them.
Every single one you eventually publish, if becoming a children's book author is still your dream.
I want to read them to my sons, ages 5 and 10 months. I want them to be their favorite books; the ones they beg me to read over and over and over again until what was once happily purchased for them becomes the bane of my already-complicated and drawn-out nightly routine.
And I want to tell them about the author, Chanel Miller. I want them to know about you.
I want my boys to know that the person responsible for the book in their perpetually pudgy, peanut-butter covered hands is also a person who changed state law. That now, in California, there is a mandatory prison sentence for anyone convicted of assaulting someone who is unconscious or intoxicated, and that the definition of rape has been expanded to include non-consensual penetration. I want them to know that like the superheroes on their bedsheets and adorning their tattered t-shirts, you helped people. You protected people. You fought for justice. You won.
Our children are being raised by survivors. By people like you.
I want my boys to know that the author isn't a one-dimensional person. That none of us are. That you are a survivor, yes, but you are also an author and sister and daughter and girlfriend and a symbol and, of course, just another human being. I want them to see that you carry an array of lived experiences inside you — some good, some terrible — and that they, too, will experience the good and bad, the unimaginable and the mundane, of life.
I want them to look up to someone like you: a woman of color who has the courage to explore and share all the parts of herself, at times for the benefit of others. At times when it is terrifying. At times when it seems like it's all for not. And, at times, simply for herself.
I want my sons to know there is a steep price to pay for "20 minutes of action," and that price is often paid by women.
But mostly, I want my sons to read the children's books I hope you one day write because I am selfish. I want my sons to see you, yes, but I also want my sons to see me, too. Because one day they are going to learn that their mother was sexually assaulted, and I don't want them to see me the same way you feared us parents would see you: discarded. Broken. Worthless. I want my sons to continue to see me as a role model, too.
I want them to always see mom.
Our children are surrounded by survivors. They're being shaped by people who are learning to sleep at night, to process the trauma, to feel comfortable when a loved one hugs them. Tonight, a mom will promise her son there are no monsters under his Lightning McQueen bed, knowing that when she sleeps she won't be able to deny the monster in her dreams. Right now, a grandmother is reading her granddaughter a story, fearing she will transmit the trauma down the family line. Tomorrow, I can imagine a trusted aunt will hold her niece's hand through her first pap-smear, feeling the phantom weight of the nurse examiner's hand in her own.
Our children are surrounded by survivors. By people like you.
So please, if you still want to be a children's book author, write those books for our kids. Give them stories of great adventure and lasting friendship and inspiring perseverance. I will be in line to purchase them all.
And I can promise you, that on that day, when I get home with your book in hand, I will present it to my children and they'll learn who Chanel Miller is.
And who their mom is, too.
A Fellow Survivor & Mom Of Two
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.