Kolkatta: One year and four months after she was raped and came to be known as the “Park Street rape survivor,” the woman has come forward and revealed her name and identity.
Suzette Jordan is 38-year-old single mother of two girls and caregiver of her ailing mother as well.
It is an unusually brave decision. Rape survivors usually don’t want to reveal their identity fearing “Why should I hide my identity when it was not even my fault? Why should I be ashamed of something that I did not give rise to? I was subjected to brutality, I was subjected to torture, and I was subjected to rape, and I am fighting and I will fight,” she said. On Tuesday, she marched on the streets of Kolkata with scores of other women activists protesting a series of rapes and murders in the state since June 7.
In February last year, Suzette was leaving a night club on Park Street when a man who had befriended her offered her a lift home. She accepted but once she entered the vehicle, she was held down and raped and then thrown out of the car.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stunned with her comment that the complaint of rape was a “sajano ghotona”, fabricated.
“I forgive the chief minister. She made a mistake. Anyone can make a mistake and I don’t hold it against her anymore,” Suzette said.
Not only Ms Banerjee, one of her ministers, Madan Mitra, had questioned why Suzette had been at a night club alone and drinking alcohol; another Trinamool MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar had suggested she was a sex worker and that the rape was the result of a “dispute between a client and the girl”.
But for Suzette, all that is water under the bridge. Her new job, as an online counselor to women who are victims of violence – whether rape or domestic violence – has given her a new cause and a new identity – that of an activist for women’s rights and she is taking it very seriously.
There was one more reason behind the decision to go public: the spate of rapes and murders in West Bengal since June 7. Four girls have been murdered in the last 12 days. Two of them were also brutally raped. Confirmation is awaited on whether the other two murdered girls were raped as well.
“I could no longer sit back and watch what was happening, the monstrosity that has been perpetrated,” said Suzette.
So on Tuesday, Suzette took to the streets of Kolkata with Maitree, a network of women’s organizations, to protest against the rapes and murders and demand government action to stop them. She also had a message for the Chief Minister who, during a visit to a rape and murder victim’s home at Kamduni village on Monday, lost her temper when village women demanded she speak to them.
“There is no politics in what I am doing. As a woman I think she needs to be more compassionate and maybe she is and she doesn’t really know what is going on. She is a busy woman,” said Suzette. “But we need to get this message to her that there are monstrous people lurking about and she needs to eradicate the root of the problem.”
Suzette also knows she has created a milestone of sorts by revealing her identity. A milestone other survivors of rape could emulate.