What happens when the victim is a child, too young to be blamed for what has happened to her? Well, then, it’s the mother who finds herself in the dock. Pic courtesy- DNA
Sowmya Rajendran| The News Minute| July 1, 2014| 1.20 pm IST
After every rape case that makes the headlines, there are the ‘wise’ people who hop out of the deep wells in which they reside to graciously offer the victim some advice: what could she have done differently to avoid the crime? She could have called the rapists ‘bhaiya’, she could have fallen at their feet and begged for mercy, she could have stayed at home after 5 pm (like an obedient cow returning to its pen at sundown).
If she failed to do any of these things and ended up getting raped, she could at least try and be a good victim. Because, as Babulal Gaur, the Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, so eloquently tells us, rape is ‘sometimes right, sometimes wrong’. If you happen to be a bad victim, then you sure got what you deserved! Or so the legal system and the society around you will have you believe.
The Madonna/whore binary to which women are subjected to routinely becomes even more pronounced in cases of sexual assault where strangely, it becomes the victim’s duty to demonstrate that she is a wronged Madonna and not a whore who messed up a ‘business’ deal. The rights of a sex worker, of course, don’t even enter the picture.
What happens when the victim is a child, too young to be blamed for what has happened to her? Well, then, it’s the mother who finds herself in the dock. In June 2012, Suja Jones realized that something very wrong was happening in her family. Her daughter, who was only three years and ten months old at that time, was trying to tell her something that she did not want to believe at all. When she couldn’t live in denial any more, Suja took her daughter to a gynecologist and had her worst fears confirmed – her husband, the child’s father, had allegedly been sexually abusing their daughter.
Suja’s husband, Pascal Mazurier, a French national, was employed with the French Ministry of External Affairs when Suja filed the case against him for raping their child. While the first reactions of the media and the public were to sympathize with the child and her mother, Suja says that these responses systematically underwent a change as people realized that she did not fit the mould of a ‘good’ victim. A reporter from Bangalore who followed the investigation from the beginning says, ‘Initially everyone questioned Pascal. A week or so later, the investigating officers started telling reporters, “Suja is not fully innocent, we think”. Any proof? No, just a hunch. Then they tried to plant stories about how the doctor who examined the child was a fraud, but that turned out to be false. By then, however, the impression that Suja had something to hide had been created.’
Conspiracy theories that Suja was trying to have her husband framed for a crime that a mystery man, purportedly a ‘lover’ of hers, had actually committed, arose after the news broke out that the DNA from the vaginal swabs did not match that of her husband’s. The reporter says, ‘The police ‘sources’ told journalists that DNA samples didn’t match Pascal’s. What they didn’t reveal was the full story – that the samples didn’t match those of the child’s either. Which means the swabs may have been swapped.’
Suja, by her own admission, is not the sort of vanilla woman who has stepped out of an Ekta Kapoor serial. She’s educated, she’s traveled, she’s lived a good life, she knows her rights. So obviously, she should be the ‘type’ of woman who has many lovers and is…umm, shall we say, not very ‘virtuous’? That’s what the police think anyway. They wanted to know how many men she’s dated in the past, how many men she meets currently, what kind of parties she attends and so on because…all of it is very relevant to the case, right? No background check on Mazurier, the accused, though. Not important.
In December 2013, on Christmas day, Pascal Mazurier, his mother, and some policemen went to Suja’s house. The cops were aware that this was a clear violation of Mazurier’s bail order, but they’d still come to request Suja, in the spirit of Christmas, to let the father be part of the festivities! Never mind that what they were asking, if the allegations are proved right, is for a child to meet her rapist. Not exactly a tearjerker Karan Johar family reunion, is it? Curiously enough, just a week earlier a newspaper carried a report on Mazurier, characterizing him as a bereaved father who wanted to visit his children. Coincidence? _
Pascal Mazurier, from being ‘monster dad’ has become a ‘grieving father’ while Suja has turned into the villainous witch who is trying to break up the holy institution of the family. A sin that no good woman should dare commit, whether she’s being harassed for dowry or is a victim of domestic violence or is married to a man who is abusing their child. The investigating officer, who spoke to their daughter, was so eager to keep the sacred institution of the family intact that he physically touched the child in different places, asking if daddy had done the same to her and if she loved him. In his concluding report, he wrote that the child loved her daddy very much and wanted him back. Victims of child sexual abuse, as any psychologist will attest, are torn between conflicting emotions and loyalties. Especially when the abuser happens to be a parent. But the IO was probably just following his Bollywood instincts. We just love happy endings, don’t we?
When she goes to court, Suja makes sure she goes in salwar-kameez with dupatta. No sleeveless, please. She has to be the very picture of ‘modesty’ or she risks creating the ‘wrong’ impression. That of a woman who refuses to hide under the shroud of victimhood. It matters that she is covered up so the facts can speak for themselves. It matters that she looks the part for the medical evidence and the testimonies of the doctors and the psychologists to carry weight. Suja complies because she knows how important this is – the stigma of sexual assault is something she’s lived with, through her daughter, for the past two years. She has had to move out of their expensive home and it was a nightmare trying to find a house because the minute the landlords knew about the case, they didn’t want anything to do with her or her children.
But what of the child, that brave little soul who wouldn’t back down till she was heard? From a child who refused to speak when she first went to school, Suja says her daughter is now blooming. She’s even become naughty, the teachers declare! She will always carry the mark of what happened to her like a burn scar, but she has moved past the pain of the wound. Slowly, she has started trusting men again; her world is limping back, sometimes galloping, towards the normal. Here is one victim who wants to sing, dance, and laugh.
Does that make her a good victim or a bad one?
Neither. It makes her a survivor.
Read more here – http://www.thenewsminute.com/stories/Victimhood%20and%20the%20Pascal%20Mazurier%20Case