By Brooke Beyer
“The first way to take a stand against sexual assault is to be educated,” said Lauryn Johnson ’22, a Daily staffer, explaining her motivation for the Chanel Miller book club she created. The book club, which will meet on three nights over the next few weeks, will include presentations and activities intended to further conversation about sexual assault on campus through the lens of Miller’s recent memoir, “Know My Name.”
The book, released in September, offers a poignant look into Miller’s experience in the wake of her assault in 2015 by former Stanford swimmer and convicted felon Brock Turner. The memoir has been met with praise by members of the Stanford community, with some calling for its inclusion in the Three Books program, which hosts a panel on the selected texts for incoming frosh during their orientation week.
Johnson, who is the Violence Intervention and Prevention Chair of her sorority Delta Delta Delta (Tri-Delt), said she hopes the book club will engage female-identifying people (womxn) in the Stanford community with the issue of sexual assault on campus.
Meetings will feature programming led by faculty from Stanford’s Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies department (FGSS) as well as the Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response (SARA). The event was made possible by ResEd’s Experiential Learning Funds (ELF) which provided 50 copies of “Know My Name” for students in the club.
“I see this as a great way to unite the community who are passionate about this topic and willing to engage with the material together,” Johnson said.
She added that she felt the conversation about combatting sexual assault was most critical now, at a time when the issue has gained significant traction in the U.S. and internationally. The results of the recent campus climate survey revealed a lack of confidence in University resources to address issues of sexual violence.
“We live in a pivotal moment in history, and we have to choose to act or to stay complacent,” said Kayley Miller ’20, Tri-Delt president and a co-organizer of the event. “In an era where women like Chanel are speaking out, we have a responsibility to amplify their voices.”
“We hope this book club provides a safe space to be honest, vulnerable, and feel supported by others,” she added.
The book club, sponsored by the Inter-Sorority Council, is open to all womxn in the Stanford undergraduate community.
“Sexual assault is not a problem solely for women in sororities,” Johnson said. “I started this for all womxn at Stanford.”
Each of the event’s three nights will center on a specific theme, including community outreach, close reading of the memoir and background on policies and statistics relating to sexual violence. Johnson has also planned activities which incorporate art into the event to encourage participants to express their response to the book creatively. She said she took inspiration from Chanel Miller’s own experience using art as a medium for healing, described in the memoir.
“[Chanel Miller] was brave enough to put her story out,” book club member Devon Holland ’22 said. “It is important that we hear her words.”
Holland emphasized the community’s responsibility to acknowledge and honor Miller’s account, not least because the assault happened on Stanford’s campus.
Asked what message she hopes the event will send to survivors of sexual violence, especially Chanel Miller, Johnson replied, “We see you, we know your name.”
Contact Brooke Beyer at bbeyer ‘at’ stanford.edu.