By Ajay Ravi
Three years ago, representatives of Chanel Miller accepted Glamour’s “Woman of the Year” award on her behalf. But at this year’s ceremony on Sunday, Miller claimed the award herself.
In the 2016 ceremony, three actresses read Miller’s letter to Brock Turner while Miller “was actually in the room that night, sitting silently in the back, listening to every word,” said Glamour’s editor-in-chief Samantha Barry when introducing Miller to the audience at this year’s event.
Rather than delivering an acceptance speech, Miller followed Barry’s introduction with a poem she wrote entitled, “I Don’t Give A Damn.”
The poem cautions listeners against communicating with sexual assault victims in a way that makes them feel the need to defend themselves — against “sealing them off in shame” and “interrogating them with stupid questions,” in Miller’s words.
Instead, she urges her audience to consider the psychological and emotional well-beings of sexual assault victims.
“People may continue to come up with reasons ‘why it happened,’” she said. “But the truth is, I don’t give a damn. But I do give a damn how you’re doing.”
Miller came forward publicly in early September and later that month released her memoir “Know My Name.”
A broad coalition of members of the Stanford community has expressed support of Miller, with students staging a solidarity rally by petitioning for her memoir’s inclusion in the Three Books program.
Students, faculty and staff have also called on the administration to place a plaque with a quote selected by Miller at the site of her 2015 assault by former Stanford swimmer and convicted felon Brock Turner: “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.” The administration had rejected the quotation on the grounds that it could have a detrimental impact on survivors of sexual assault.
The significance of Miller’s story extends beyond Stanford’s campus, according to Barry.
“There’s a leader here tonight who changed the way our society sees assaults against women on college campuses,” she said during this year’s ceremony. “She became a real-life hero to assault survivors and justice-seekers everywhere.”
Contact Ajay Ravi at ajay4 ‘at’ stanford.edu.