“I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name. ”
That excerpt is from the Victim Impact Statement read before the court in People vs. Turner, the high-profile 2015 criminal case that found Stanford collegiate swimmer Brock Turner facing five felony sexual assault charges and a maximum of 10 years in prison. While Turner has become synonymous with his crime (his mugshot was even featured next to the definition of ‘rape’ in a criminology textbook following his three-count conviction, for which he served three months of a six-month sentence), the identity of his victim remained obscured under the placeholder ‘Jane Doe’ in court records and media coverage. Reduced to a peripheral figure in her own assault case, legal analysts and social media commenters dissected the most vulnerable hours of her life in an effort to determine where her rapist’s fault truly lie. Some doubted her claims of a nonconsensual encounter altogether, suggesting that her recollection of events before and after the attack were unreliable due to alcohol intoxication. Nameless, faceless, and long silent, she became the everywoman of sexual assault.
While the case concluded with a fractured semblance of justice, frustrations regarding Turner’s sentence lingered long after the final slam of the gavel. Following months of dialogue on the relatively light sentences handed down to perpetrators of sexual assault—and the disproportionately aggressive skepticism endured by women brave enough to report those crimes—the public was primed for outrage. Lauded for its exceptional depiction of the brutality of rape and a survivor’s efforts to reconcile her identity with her new lived experiences, Doe’s June 2016 address to the court was disseminated by news outlets worldwide. Four days and 11 million shares across social media later, the court of public opinion returned its verdict: Perpetrators of sexual violence could no longer use shame and intimidation to control the narrative, which had shifted from, ‘what did she do?’ to, ‘what consequences should he face?’
The next wave of victim-centered discourse gained traction in 2017 through #MeToo, the social media movement dominated by stories of women (and men) who, too, had been victims of sexual abuse, their disclosures in response to accusations leveled against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. “Time’s Up,” they said, as the once-powerful studio executive and various other high-profile figures were publicly admonished—and held criminally liable—for sexual misconduct. The trend of survivors telling their stories eventually reached the Senate floor in 2018, as the nation watched Christine Blasey Ford testify that then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh raped her decades earlier.
Sexual violence has never been confined to college campuses or the upper-echelons of society. It has always been in our community, and by talking about it, we are finally addressing its destructive effects on survivors.
In 2019, Turner’s victim disclosed her name. It’s Chanel.

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