From Mumbai Mirror

By Invitation Harish Iyer Equal Rights Activist

I met Suzette around a year back at a conference panel, ironically, about rape. I was there as a child sexual abuse survivor; she was a rape survivor.

I had only read that she had broken her silence and told the world: “I am not the Park Street rape victim. I am Suzette Jordan.” I was excited to meet her, but I didn’t want to tell her that; I knew how it feels to be treated like a trophy.

She looked petrified. She had spoken on TV, but had never faced such a large, high-profile audience. I went up to her to comfort her. I told her I am gay, so she can hug me. She laughed and said she was scared. I replied, “Kaiko darti hai baba, tu bhi rape victim mein bhi rape victim, audience mein bhi rape victims hai.” She was shocked, but gave in to laughter. We became the best of friends. Pain united us.

Suzette was really upset that she was treated like an accused in the rape case. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called her an enemy of the state. Suzette told me that the woman judge behaved very rudely with her and showed no empathy. In the unending court appearances, she was asked to narrate her ordeal again and again.

She was determined to fight it out. She was a fighter. But she didn’t want to be brave all the time. She wanted to be an average person, though she had to face the worst humiliations. She shared with me an incident that affected her badly – when the undergarments that she was wearing when she was raped were displayed. The defence lawyer held them with a stick and asked her if they were hers and if she was them the day she was “allegedly” raped.

Suzette told me that she broke down in court and pleaded to the judge to intervene; the judge, a woman, did not. “I was gang-raped again and again and again in court,” Suzette told me. I would get her to laugh at her tragedy every time we spoke.

When she was very upset with the defence lawyer, I asked her, “Was the lawyer hot?” She started abusing me in jest. Our tragedies became our identities: “Hello, can I speak to the rape victim” is how we would begin our conversations, and laugh before we cried.

She was raped by Indians. She was raped by India’s judicial process. She was raped by every one of you who doubted her story. She was denied entry into a restaurant called Ginger in Kolkata because she was a rape victim.

For us, rape is something that happens to the person on TV, or someone you read about in the newspaper. We live in denial that rape doesn’t happen in our homes. Suzette died of meningitis at 3 am. When you are low, you become prone to diseases. I used to tell her, it is okay to be weak sometimes. It is okay to give up fighting. In the end, she listened to me.