Update: Why Indian gang rape victim Suzette Jordan went public

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH in Boston. We've heard a lot in the past few months about the issue of rape in India, but we haven't heard much from the victims themselves. In February of last year, a 37-year-old woman went out to a nightclub in a five-star hotel in Kolkata. By the end of the night her life had changed. She was gang raped and thrown out of a car. Her story got a lot of attention in India. She appeared in silhouette in news stories, and the media dubbed her the Park Street rape victim. But recently she did something almost unthinkable in India. She decided to go public with her identity. Reporter Sandip Roy spoke with her at her apartment in Kolkata.

Suzette Jordan: My name is Suzette Jordan.

Sandip Roy: And Suzette Jordan doesn't want to be a silhouette anymore. Or digitized. Or masked.

Jordan: Becaue if I fight, I need to fight for who I am, not behind a mask, not behind a screen, and not behind a blurred image. I have nothing to hide. I was raped. I was brutally raped. I was tortured but I am alive for that and I want to fight for the women that have lost their lives.

Roy: Jordan's rape pushed her into the shadows. It took another brutal rape to bring her out. It wasn't the horrific attack on a young Delhi medical student on a bus in December. It was the gang rape and murder of another student near Kolkata in June. There were huge protest marches. And Jordan went to one of those rallies.

Jordan: When we got there I realized I didn't bring a scarf to cover my face.

Roy: To cover her face and mask her identity. But when Jordan saw a few hundred women chanting “halla bol,” meaning make noise, something clicked.

Jordan: You know, I thought to myself, what an idiot I am. Look at these women. They are not going to stand down, they want to stand up and fight. That was when I decided that today I am going to reveal myself. I am going to say who I am.

Roy: It was a controversial decision. Jordan had already revealed some details about her life to the media, that she's a single mother of two, that she's Anglo-Indian. She did it because she thought it would force the police to do their job, instead of dismissing her.

Jordan: From the start they ridiculed me, they made fun of me, they made me believe or made me feel that the fault was mine, and they weren't taking me seriously at all.

Roy: In India, rape victims' names are protected to shield them from the stigma. Her family found out about her decision to go public at the rally the way everyone else did. They saw her on TV.

Jordan: They didn't even know. They were shocked when they saw me on TV. Of course, when I came home my daughters were very, very proud. They were like, mama, go for it. My mom, being the timid person she is, she was scared.

Roy: Rape has been front page news in India ever since the December attack. It provoked a nationwide outcry. Since then, Parliament passed stricter laws on rape, including the possibility of the death penalty. But it doesn't mean blame-the-victim attitudes have changed. Jordan has heard politicians dismiss her story in the media.

Jordan: Oh, she's a single mom, she might have been a prostitute, her husband left her. So yeah, these are the kinds of stories.

Roy: By coming out, Jordan gets to tell the story we generally don't hear in India, of life after the rape.

Jordan: Yeah, I couldn't move, I couldn't even get up to go to the loo, you know, to go to the ladies'. My father had to lift me off my bed and take me to the loo. That is so embarrassing.

Roy: It was hard on her daughters because the neighbors figured out she was the Park Street rape victim.

Jordan: The people in my area, when my daughters would go, leave for school in the morning, they started to look at them in weird ways and pass comments to them.

Roy: Jordan was out of work at the time of the attack. But she couldn't find a new job because potential employers guessed who she was. They'd seen her silhouette on TV.

Jordan: Looking at me they'd realize, oh, this is the Park Street rape victim. And they would tell me, okay, we'll get back to you.

Roy: Finally she got hired by a helpline for survivors of abuse. As she sits in her tiny apartment playing with her white kitten, Suzette Jordan says she knows being out isn't going to be easy, though the media has been supportive. But she says she wants to do it for others who can't show their faces.

Jordan: Even though people have laughed at me I want to be the example of their laughter, because I can take it. I have taken it for the past 15 months. So I know that I am strong.

Roy: For The World, I am Sandip Roy, Kolkata.