Unlike so many eulogists penning down their two bits on the internet, I do not claim to know Suzette Jordan well. My only contact with her had been a few phone calls that I had made to garner an interview after the whole Ginger debacle, where she was denied entry for being the ‘Park Street Rape Victim’. That and the fact that we shared a few mutual friends who would update me from time to time about the meetings and the protests in which she stood shoulder to shoulder with them, with a proud bearing, befitting of the word survivor.
Nevertheless, I knew her enough to know one thing for certain. She hated, absolutely abhorred the word victim, and never associated herself with it.
“I’m not the Park Street Rape Victim. I’m Suzette Jordan,” is what she would proudly say.
Ever since she fell prey to that heinous act in 2012, Suzette Jordan’s life hurtled from one tragedy to another, like a series of unfortunate incidents, albeit without any humour, black or otherwise. She was accused of being an enemy of the state by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, she was dismissed as being a professional escort who has a tiff with her clients, she was even mistreated by the judge(who ironically happened to be female) presiding over her case. She was treated as a pariah, an unemployable person despite having necessary skills in her area of expertise, stigmatised and shunned by the world.
Yet, she put on a brave front. She came out in the open in 2013, publicly acknowledging having survived through her horrific ordeal in an effort to change the society’s outlook towards rape survivors. She appeared on various panels, TV shows and gave several interviews to get her story to people, in the hopes that others who have suffered a similar fate as her, would gather strength and stand up for themselves. The victim, as she always stressed, was not a victim but a survivor of this devilish tool of patriarchy.
She would routinely follow up on other survivors whenever she could, support them in her own way and try to show them the light. She was a big friend of the LGBTQIA community which still fights a battle for existence in our country.
Suzette lost her fight against meningoencephalitis early morning on March 13, 2015, after fighting for her life for the past few days. She is survived by her mother, sister and two equally strong daughters, who supported her every step of her way in the fight for justice.
Three of the perpetrators of her rape are still undergoing trial, two still haven’t been caught. With her passing away, it is even more important that justice for her is ensured, to honour her memory and for her to rightfully receive what she didn’t while alive. The crisp decisive voice that answered my stumbling questions confidently, without a trace of doubt, may be no more with us. But her struggle for justice and empathetic stand towards other survivors of sexual abuse till the end will stay.
It has to.
She did not go gently into that good night. She raged, and raged against the dying light.