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The #Suryanelli Gang #Rape Survivor: Would I Get More Support Had I Died?

September 1, 2013

In Jan 1996, a school girl was kidnapped, held captive, and raped and brutalized by 42 men for 40 days. 16 year on she still awaits justice.  Since the law in India does not allow rape victims to be identified, the victim became known as the “Suryanelli girl.” To read the full story of her continued fight for justice click here.

After the Delhi bus gang rape where the victim succumbed to the injuries that were inflicted on her, a number of  violent gang rape survivors in India have raised the same question:  Would they have received more public support if they too were killed after the rape?  Why are women who’ve survive violent gang rapes in India and who are fighting a corrupt police and criminal system to get justice, not given the same sort of support by the public in India and internationally even when their cases are equally high profile as the Suryanelli and the Park street case have been?  Why is there no one standing by their side, as they continue to fight despite harassment from the criminal system and social stigmatization?

Below the Suryanelli victim asks this question in her own words:

suryanelli facelessYou may not know my name, ever. To the day I die, I am destined to bear this tag that I cannot shrug off.  I am the Suryanelli girl. For the past 17 years, I have been fighting for justice as some called me a child prostitute and others the victim. But no one ever gave me a name like Nirbhaya or Amanat (treasure) [like they did for the Delhi Gang rape victim]. I will never be the nation’s pride or the face of women wronged.  I am no longer the 16-year-old school girl who fell for her first love, and lost her life.

Yet, at 33, I am battling the same nightmares; my world is a grey longwinding road that stretches from my house to church and office.

People have a tendency to smirk when I recount the 40 days when I was turned into a female body that could be used anyway they liked sold like caged cattle, pushed into dark rooms across the state, raped day and night, kicked and punched. They ask me how I can remember everything, and I wonder, how can I ever forget? I drift into disturbed sleep every night with those days flashing in front of my eyes, and I wake up to a dark fathomless hole inhabited by slimy men and wicked women.

My trauma did not end with them dumping me near my house when I was near-dead . My family stood by me, and I filed the case thinking that this should not happen to another girl. I thought I was doing the right thing, but what followed changed my belief. The investigation team paraded me across the state, asked me countless times to describe everything they did to me. They made me realise that being a woman is not easy, as a victim or a survivor.

I feel relieved that the Delhi girl died, or she would have faced the same pointed, porn-tinted questions from everywhere, forced to explain countless whys, and would have had to live a life fearing her own shadow and without a friend.

I too don’t have a friend; no one in office wants to talk to me. My parents, and my sister working in Karnataka, are the only people who hear my voice, and yes, there are advocates, media persons and social activists. I read a lot too nowadays , I am reading K R Meera’s ‘Aarachar’ (The Hangman) now.

Apart from my family, no one else knows that I worry about my failing health, my constant headache, a leftover of those 40 days when a kick on the head was part of the abuse they unleashed on me. My doctor says I should not be so stressed, and I really thought it was funny. I have gained weight too, it is nearing 90. When I was suspended from my job for nine months, I spent most of my days in bed, and the kilos piled on. Now I am doing some exercises. Total cure is another dream, another prayer that keeps me going.

My belief in the Almighty that everything would turn out to be good is still alive. I pray every morning and night, and I don’t ask why me, why this again. I trust Him, even in those days when I could barely open my eyes or stay alive, I prayed. I belong to the Latin Church which is the largest individual church in the Catholic Church, but in all these 17 years, not even a single prayer was said for me in any church anywhere. No rosaries marked the Hail Marys, and no angels came to my doorstep to offer kind words.

But my belief has not wavered. It gives me the strength to watch 24/7 news channels where the protectors of law call me a child prostitute, and eminent personalities discuss why my case won’t stand. Even when I am framed in a financial fraud case in my office, and when my parents go down with major health problems , I convince myself that this too would pass. One day.

This account is an excerpt from The Sunday Times.

The Suryanelli Survivor’s account here is included in The 50 Million Missing Campaign’s Project ‘Freedom’ Series to Stop Violence Against Women.  To read personal life accounts by other Indian women and men in our FREEDOM SERIES, CLICK HERE

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Amber permalink
    September 1, 2013 4:31 pm

    You may feel alone, but you are not alone. We hear your voice and we send our love and support to you.

  2. September 1, 2013 6:31 pm

    Reblogged this on Social Awareness.

  3. Astrid Vella permalink
    September 1, 2013 7:36 pm

    Dear Suryanelli Girl, I have been following these posts in silence, my sadness increasing with every posting. However the very aspect that you are see as a disadvantage, that you are living while the others died, on the contrary makes your case much more touching for us readers. The cases where the victims were dead or anonymous leaves us no alternative but to sympathise passively and sign petitions. Your case is different and I reach out to you. You are right that no prayers were said for you, as we didn’t know about you. From now on, I tell you there will be a family and a Prayer Group in far-off Catholic Malta, in the Mediterranean, praying for you on a daily basis. May God restore your health and strengthen your morale. Take care and God bless, Astrid Vella from Malta.

  4. J. Metaneira permalink
    September 1, 2013 10:43 pm

    I’m sorry, love. I believe you and don’t judge you. I wish there was more I could give than just words on the net.

  5. Samir Chatterjee permalink
    September 2, 2013 12:49 am

    Your real life story made me weep. I wish I could do something for you from this cold, dark English town. Simultaneously your faith in God and inner strength touched me deeply. Hope is all we can cling to because there is life in hope. There are plenty of good people about. It is your rotten ill luck that you have not come across them. But one day your story will get heard and action will be taken to right the terrible wrongs. You are not alone sister!

  6. September 2, 2013 4:05 pm

    Dear, you are not alone !!

  7. Prasanna Kumar Acharya permalink
    September 15, 2013 3:47 pm

    Dear Rita
    I think we should strongly come out to re raise the issue

    • September 16, 2013 10:40 am

      We will be sending out the letter to Women Deliver this week, with the petition with 20,000 signatures and we will post a copy of it on this blog. Please check back end of the week.

  8. Seena permalink
    December 28, 2013 10:23 pm

    When I first read your story 16 years ago, I wept and couldnt sleep at night thinking of the agony and the pain you must have encountered. Please know that since that day, you have been in my prayers. You must know that there are countless other people praying for you and wishing you justice, joy, happiness, and strength. Keep going!


  1. Letter to @WomenDeliver to Apologize to The #Suryanelli #Rape Survivor | THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN BLOG ON INDIA'S FEMALE GENDERCIDE
  2. Schriftliche Aufforderung an @Women Deliver, sich bei dem #Vergewaltigungsopfer von #Suryanelli zu entschuldigen | The 50 Million Missing Campaign: "50 Millionen verschwunden"
  3. Lettre @WomenDeliver pour que l’organisation s’excuse auprès de la Survivante du #Viol de #Suryanelli | The 50 Million Missing Campaign: Les 50 Millions Manquantes
  4. Überlebende der Suryanelli-Gruppenvergewaltigung: Hätte ich mehr Unterstützung erhalten, wenn ich gestorben wäre? | The 50 Million Missing Campaign: "50 Millionen verschwunden"
  5. Hashtag Feminism and Twitter Activism in India, Elizabeth Losh « Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective
  6. La Survivante du #viol collectif de #Suryanelli : « Aurais-je reçu plus de soutien si j’avais perdu la vie ? » | The 50 Million Missing Campaign: Les 50 Millions Manquantes

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