All the news channels reported her death yesterday with these lines – Park Street Rape Victim dies in Kolkata hospital – making many of us, who had not heard about her, think she died as an aftermath of the rape injuries and that she was raped recently. Then how come I had not read about the rape incident? I thought. Then another bigger question emerged – How was her name, Suzette Jordan, mentioned so openly? Isn’t disclosing the rape victim’s name a felony in our country?
This doubt led me to read Suzette’s story completely – tragically, after her death. It touched me to the core. It made me think this was one spunky woman who really deserved to be called NIRBHAYA in the true sense of the word. Instead she was mocked, riled, ridiculed and raped again and again. In worse ways then the original rapists had done. Why? Because she dared to ‘come out of the closet’ and herself chose to make her name public so other victims of rape could take comfort and solace from her gesture. And what really happened? The very people who were supposed to give her justice – the Judge, the lawyers, the CM of her state, and other public establishments like a restaurant – gang raped her again and again. They did not rape her body. They did much worse – they raped her mind and her spirit. They could not understand – HOW CAN A ‘RAPE VICTIM’ BE SO BRAVE AND OUTSPOKEN? HOW CAN SHE IMAGINE ANYONE WILL ALLOW HER TO LEAD A NORMAL, HAPPY LIFE NOW?
As her friend – another rape survivor based in Mumbai ( a man!) says – INDIA KILLED HER.
So what is Suzette’s story?
Suzette was a girl born and brought up in Calcutta. She was an Anglo-Indian and came from a family of learned educationists. Her grandmother was a headmistress of a famous missionary school and most of aunts and uncles were teachers too. But Suzette was a rebel. After she finished schooling, she chose to get married rather than go to college. As some impetuous teenage romances do, her marriage broke up some years later, leaving her a single mom of two daughters. She went on with life bravely, but she made the mistake of enjoying life and being outspoken about it, despite her travails and tragedies. And perhaps it is a testimony to how unhappy and dissatisfied most of us are with our own lives that we in India HATE anyone who is happy. Specially if it is a woman – and most especially if she has a broken marriage behind her.
Suzette didn’t care for people’s perceptions. She went out with friends, she befriended strangers easily, AND she was a good mom and a great person ( according to her friends and family).
One evening, she had arranged to meet up with a friend for a little while at the Catholic club in her vicinity. A very close and trusted friend whom she could talk openly to. He was late and she got fed up of waiting alone. So she decided to walk out and go to a five star hotel pub on Park street. (“The worst mistake of my life”, she lamented later). Over a few drinks she befriended a nice looking, well spoken guy. (Don’t we all do it sometime?) When she was ready to leave, he offered to give her a lift home since he was leaving too. She agreed. (Her second mistake). When she got into the car, she saw there were more guys inside already. They then threatened her at gun point, took turns at raping her in the moving car, and threw her out on the road when they were ‘done’ with her.
Traumatized and terrorized as she must have been after this horrible experience, she had spunk and spirit enough to go to the police and lodge a complaint narrating honestly the sequence of incidents. Her case was admitted, but to her horror and dismay the system began treating her as the ACCUSED rather than a victim. Read what her friend had to say –
“Chief Minister of W Bengal Mamta Banerjee had called her the enemy of the state. She had accused her of lying about her rape to tarnish the image of the Trinamool Congress government. She was called a hooker whose client had harsh sex with her. If all of this was not enough, she was treated with absolute contempt inside the court. She told me that the “FEMALE” judge behaved with her very rudely with absolute lack of empathy. Her court case appearances were unending. She was asked to narrate the incident again and again as the defense looked for discrepancies in her then and now statements. She was determined to fight it out even if it meant that she would be shot dead or raped again. She was a fighter. But people took her strength for granted. People forgot that she was human and she had the right to cry. She didn’t want to be brave all the time. She didn’t want to be the inspiration all the time. She was a normal person. She wanted to be seen as a normal average Joe though she had the worst humiliations to face. One incident that affected her so badly was when her undergarments that she was wearing when she was raped were paraded openly. The defense lawyer held it with a stick and asked her if it was her undergarments, and if she was wearing this on that day when she was “allegedly” raped. She told me that she broke down in court and pleaded to the judge asking her to intervene. The judge, one of her own gender, did not.”
When Suzette Jordan heard about the Nirbhaya case, she was stunned – and she saw parallels to her own case. She made a very bold decision then. To fight this menace of rape and remove the shame that is associated with someone who has unfortunately been a victim of it she decided to voluntarily disclose her name and speak about her ordeal publicly on TV channels. She appeared on Amir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate and narrated her case.
Why did she do it? Did she want the notoriety and the ill fame that it got her? Absolutely not! She wanted to show by her example to other rape victims that life could go on afterwards… She was not guilty of the heinous crime, her perpetrators were, so why should SHE hide in shame?
Her gesture made many other rape victims reach out to her and confide in her. She became the repository of almost every rape case in the country when ‘victims’ cried to her and relived their anguish with her. She was there for everybody who needed her. When the Tehelka case happened, she was quick to get in touch with the girl concerned and offered solidarity and advise.
Some people fighting for ’causes’ lapped up this enthusiasm and exploited her candour by having her on their talk shows and programs. But then they left her alone to fight the resultant slander and more ridicule, even venomous hatred that came her way.
Her trial was unending and she had to face being the target of disgust and disbelief again and again. She feared for the safety and well being of her ( now) grown up, teenage daughters. She started being depressed and withdrawn. (Anyone who has not only been raped herself and is fighting for justice, but is also talking with other rape victims continually can take only so much!)
When you are depressed your defenses are down. You can be attacked easily by infections and disease. This is what happened to Suzette. She succumbed to Encephalitis. She died.
As long as Suzette lived, she always begged the media. “Dont call me a rape victim. I hate it! Call me a ‘rape survivor’ if you must”.
Even after her death, most people did NOT listen – so channel after channel came out with this news – Park street rape victim dies. We showed that you CANNOT be a rape survivor. (Probably as our movies have shown since times immemorial, when you are raped, it is better you commit suicide! How can you live on with ‘your purity’ spoilt?) This is how her friend says summing her case –
This one incident ( her undergarments being displayed and exhibited again and again in court) was one of the most devastating ones in Suzette’s life. She described it as, “I WAS GANG RAPED. AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN IN COURT.” She wanted to hold me and cry. I would coyly get her to laugh at her tragedy every time we spoke. Once when she was too upset with the defense lawyer, I asked her “Was the Lawyer HOT?” And she started giving me horrible Hindi abuses in jest. We both addressed each other by the tragedy. “Hello Can I Speak To Rape Victim?” is how we would begin our conversations and laugh before we cried.
She was not raped by some gang of perverted men. She was raped by the people of this country. She was raped by the law process of our country. She was raped by each one of you who doubted her story. Some time back, she was denied entry into a restaurant called @Ginger, in KOLKATA because *She was a rape victim*. There was an outrage on Twitter and Facebook when she spoke up. But actually, the restaurant staff was only holding a mirror to the attitude of people in our country. For us rape is a cause, and rape victim is a story. Rape is something that happens to the person on TV, or someone you read on the news, rape doesn’t happen in our homes. We live in a world of denial. Suzette died today at 3 am. Correction: India murdered Suzette with their mindset and attitude towards women and survivors of rape.