OMI GURUNG in conversation with SUZETTE JORDAN, the strong woman who has inspired many to recognize their own acts of courage
She is a woman, just like other women in your locality but her life changed in February 2012, when a man she befriended at a nightclub raped her along with some friends on the pretext of dropping her home. She was thrown from a car onto the street, bruised, battered, gang-raped, her clothes ripped half off. The Chief Minister of West Bengal dismissed her case as a sajano ghatana (manufactured incident). She was unfavourably compared with Nirbhaya as good victim and bad victim. People questioned her character but that did not deter the woman. In fact she took a bold step to tell the world,
"My name is Suzette Jordan and I don't want to be known any longer as the victim of Kolkata’s Park Street rape."
(Excerpts from the interview)
Suzette you look fashionably fabulous, just the way you are; tell us more about yourself?
I am a single mother with two teenage daughters (15 and 17-year-old), living with me is also my mother who has been a very big influence in my life. Apart from her, my grandmother is someone I gather strength and courage from. Like any woman of my age, I love shopping, cooking great meals for my family and friends, enjoy taking care of my plants in my spare time. Music and poetry have been a great resource towards my healing process. I am a devout Christian and never miss a Sunday mass in Church. Especially after the unfortunate February incident, my faith in almighty developed even deeper. I am a survivor; I am a fighter fighting for my rights in the journey of life. I am Suzette Jordan!
After the February 2012 incident, people called you with different names. Which was more challenging for you to face the world or to face yourself?
The names people called me did hurt emotionally to a great extent, there were times I tried taking my own life and I was like a walking corpse! The challenge was not facing me or the world, the challenge was to get up and take control of my life and fight for my right. The only reminder for me to fight back was that innocenct eyes in my teenage daughters. For them, I was a strong person unafraid of anyone or anything and here I was broken and beaten just waiting to die, a battered soul. However, I could not let them down; I had no option but to fight back!
You are a single mother. Did your teenage daughters face difficulties after the February incident?
My daughters have been very strong for me and through their strength I was able to walk again with dignity. Yes, they too had to confront and combat the social stigmas after the unfortunate incident but faced every problem fearlessly and I am very proud of my girls. Thankfully in school their friends and teachers showered them with lots of love and attention. I am eternally grateful to the school they study in.
In many rape cases it’s often seen the victim has to undergo several more ordeals just to prove she was raped. Do you think the society, policemen and doctors have become more sensitive and compassionate towards the victims?
Well, there is still a lot that has to change and we are all waiting in hope. There are still cases where the victims of sexual crimes face humiliation and are dismissed or their cases are politicized; we live in a hypocritical society where we lack compassion and sensitivity! We have stopped being human! Once we look into our own hearts only then can we fight in solidarity turning our change into a revolution of love, peace, respect and most importantly freedom.
Your grandmother, mother and daughter played a vital role in helping you rebuild self-confidence in life but many do not get family support during their tough times. It’s learned that the most rape victims in India commit suicide due to lack of family support. What’s your take on it?
It is true that a lot of victims/survivors of rape are not supported by their family that is because of false beliefs that have been instilled during our childhood. It’s sad that women right from the time of conception are under the scanner of destruction and a lifetime of pain and suffering. However, things are slowly changing for better and together we can bring a change. People in rural as well as urban area need to be educated and more awareness created on “Crime against women” to avoid this epidemic, that has countless souls entrapped, crying for justice!
The trio (Naseer Khan, Sumit Bajaj and Ruman Khan) accused in the February 2012 Park Street rape case were recently found active on Facebook. How do you respond to it?
The very fact that the three accused found active on Facebook goes to say a lot about the mindset of rapists. And how much remorse they feel from inflicting pain and torture on other human being but again sadly they don’t have value for human life so not much is expected from them. It also highlights the security level of jails in India. Having said that, I do expect a fast and positive judgement; justice should and shall soon prevail.
What should a person do first, if s(he) has been a victim of molestation or rape?
A victim of rape / molestation should report the crime asap without any delay. We live in a society that demands external proof; no one sees the pain and torture we go through internally. The fact that we have come to report about the incident are often not taken seriously but go along with someone, may be friend, family member or social activist and lodge FIR in the nearby police station.
A Saturday night out with friends or a Sunday brunch with family, which one would you go for, if you could attend only one and why?
I will go for a Sunday brunch with family. I will not go to any discotheque until and unless the system has changed and I feel safer.
How did you spend your last weekend?
Last weekend I had invited family and friends over for dinner, we talked and enjoyed. On Sunday, I visited my grandmother house and we spent together the entire day.
Any favourite quote?
I would like to share few lines from the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.”
Any message for our readers?
Start doing what is necessary and then do what is possible. Never give up! Power and peace!