The Story of Brave Suzette Jordan
Suzette Jordan was fighting to live
NEW DELHI: “So I'll keep fighting to live till there's no reason to fight
And I'll keep trying to see until the end is in sight
You know I'm trying to give so c'mon give me a try
You know I'm dying to live until I'm ready to die “
This seemed to be the motto of the young and brave Suzette Jordan, raped, beaten, humiliated and ridiculed. Optimism and courage determined her personality as she fought to live with dignity for three years after being brutally assaulted by five men on Park Street in Kolkata.
“I have taken it for 15 months. I know I am strong”, and Suzette Jordan--fed up of being dubbed the Park Street rape victim-- crossed the line laid down by the media, the feminists, the politicians, by declaring her identity to the world. She was clearly not strong enough and two years later is dead, with the causes unknown except the usual doctors final, “multi organ failure”.
"I am tired of hiding my real identity. I am tired of this society's rules and regulations. I am tired of being made to feel ashamed. I am tired of feeling scared because I have been raped. Enough is enough", Suzette told the BBC at that time.
"My name is Suzette Jordan and I don't want to be known any longer as the victim of Calcutta's Park Street rape."
Life changed dramatically and traumatically for Suzette on the fateful night of February, 2012 when she came out of a nightclub. She was attacked by five men, beaten and raped. And from then on it was a fight that she thought she could manage but clearly was unable to. A single mother of two young girls, Suzette lay battered at home with her parents having to lift her even till the bathroom. Physical recovery took a long time, with Suzette cringing each time she heard herself being described as the Park Street victim by the media. She gave interviews in the first months, described the rape, spoke of the connected issues, without revealing her identity.
But life was not easy. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee contested her claim and insisted she was a liar. Suzette could not understand what she was supposed to gain from lying about being raped. The police given the political sanction, did what they are best at. They laughed at her, ridiculed her and as she said at the time, “they made me feel as somehow it was my fault.” The police initially arrested three of the five rapists, with the main chap remaining free till date. For Banerjee it was all a political game, and she made it very clear that she was not interested in pursuing the rape insisting it was a political ploy.
Despite the anonymity, the neighbours and her colony soon started recognising her as the rape victim. What devastated her was when the people started passing comments at her daughters when they went to school, and as she said, “stared at them in a weird fashion” and said nasty things. She was popping sleeping pills and anti depressants by then. Clearly unable to cope, Suzette had no idea what to do until she attended a meeting protesting against the Delhi moving bus rape of Jyoti Singh, who the media dubbed Nirbhaya. (The Citizen following her parents wish has decided to name her now as they want her to be remembered by her own identity).
It was then that Suzette realised that she was not alone, and when she heard the halla bol slogans being raised “something clicked.” As she said herself, “I said what an idiot I have been, there are women wanting to fight” and so she decided to disclose her identity, and tell the world who she was. This was in June 2013, 15 months after she had tried to walk alone but found her dignity compromised at all levels, particularly in the police station. And more so after the woman chief minister of the state called her a liar.
The journey was a nightmare that she tried to fight with optimism. The initial decision to speak out got her the media eyeballs, with Suzette even being interviewed by cine idol Aamir Khan for his television show. But as is the case always the media attention was short lived and journalists moved to other stories, even faster perhaps than anticipated. For the feminists she became a statistic, with no one following the case, or trying to see that justice was brought to the rapists and in the process to Suzette and her family.
In her first interviews after she revealed her identity Suzette was full of optimism. And a visible sense of relief as if by disclosing her identity she had liberated herself from social shackles. As she said at the time she was sure that now the police would chase the case more efficiently and diligently. When asked by Khan how she had found the courage to come out, Suzette said she had got it from her children, her grandmother who was known as the Iron Lady, and of course her mother. They all learned of her decision to disclose her identity over television, as she had decided on the spur of that moment. She said that her daughters were “so proud of me”, although her mother “being a little timid was scared.” Suzette said she did not want her daughters to grow up “thinking I am fearful. I wanted to instil in them a feeling of being fearless.”
But life remained tough clearly. Suzette was unable to get a job with potential employers turning her away. She then got a job with a helpline for the abused. She was shunned by society, with her courage being appreciated in statements by women and others, but the admiration not really translating itself on the ground. After the spotlights shifted, Suzette went back into the dark world from where she had tried to extricate herself with her amazingly bold decision. The rapists remained free, society remained judgemental although there was a great deal of support too, the women’s groups had other things to do, the media did not see a story in her any longer and somewhere along the way life broke her heart yet again.
The hospital where she died has not given out details of her illness, merely saying “multi organ failure”. She is reported to have died of the deadly meningitis, with her struggle being cut short by illness.