I got to know about Suzette Jordan just like the rest of the world — as the woman who dared to take her name. She gave millions of rape survivors an identity by refusing to get her name changed, voice altered or face silhouetted in a feisty interview after the Nirbhaya rape.
A couple of years later, i met her at the Think Conference, on a panel on rape. She was brave but had her fears too. Stage fright was one of them. I comforted her with the most insensitive words that only a fellow rape survivor could empathise with. I told her "Tu bhi rape victim, main bhi rape victim, audience mein bhi rape victims hai". She looked at me, half shocked, half at ease and after a second broke into a fit of laughter.
Pain is a great binder. She and i narrated the pain of our lives and spiked it with ruthless humour. The joke was on our offenders and those who humiliated us, not on us. We often laughed till we cried. Rape is of a time, but society rapes survivors for a lifetime. It would be a blatant lie to say that the attitudes of people around Suzette didn't affect her. She had people ostracising her to an extent that she had to change residence. She had people stalking her in the dead of night and she had fears of being killed.
Whenever she was low, she used to tell me, i think i will die early. I just don't know if i will be shot or stabbed to death. I would break her mood by talking gibberish to her — "You just need to get laid, you have no sex in your life so you are thinking so much" — and she would burst out into laughter.
But the laughter was shortlived. She would be humiliated again and again. In one of her final hearings in court, she said, the defence lawyer held the panty she wore when she was raped with a stick and asked her to confirm if she was wearing that panty. The usually calm Suzette broke down and pleaded to the lady judge to intervene, but her pleas fell on deaf ears in the stifled closet of patriarchy. This incident upset her the most.
On 15 September 2014, Suzette filed a complaint against a restaurant to which she was denied entry. The reason — she was a rape victim. Occasions change, settings change, the attitude towards rape survivors persists. She battled it with compassion, and never shied from drinking, dancing, dating or even going to slut walks. She challenged every stereotype you had about rape survivors, she challenged every stereotype you had about women. She challenged every stereotype you had about single mothers.
Deep within, she made Indian society uncomfortable with her exuberance and unabashed attitude. We Indians love putting rape survivors in a spot of how rape survivors stereotypically ought to behave. She defied that. She made many uncomfortable. India hates Suzette Jordan.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.