Rape victim shares stage with her attacker to deliver powerful message
A rape victim has reconciled and even shared a stage with her attacker in the most amazing story of forgiveness and strength.
Thordis Elva, 36, from Iceland was in a relationship with Tom Stranger, from Australia when the incident occurred. They have since reconciled and have held a TED Talk about the incident and their relationship since.
Tom was an exchange student in Iceland back in 1996 where he struck up a relationship with Thordis. They enjoyed a blossoming romance at school, meeting at lunchtimes to hold hands and be with each other.
But approximately a month later, after the school dance, things turned dark. Thordis and Tom went to the dance together and Thordis, feeling "on top of the world," tried rum for the first time.
She became very drunk and was in and out of consciousness, so much so that security guards wanted to call an ambulance.
But 18-year-old Tom acted as her "knight in shining armour" and insisted he took her home.
Thordis said she felt like a princess with her boyfriend's strong arms surrounding her, then laying her down onto her bed. She says she felt such gratitude to him for protecting her.
But that gratitude soon turned to horror as Tom proceeded to take off her clothes and rape her.
It took time for Thordis to recognise what had happened that night as 'rape,' but she says she felt a lot of pain and the only way she could have stayed sane during was to 'count the seconds on her alarm clock'.
She also says she felt it pointless to address what had happened as she felt it was her fault, somehow. She says she was raised in a world where it is taught that 'girls get raped for a reason, their skirt was too short, their smile was too wide, or their breath smelled of alcohol'. She says she was guilty of all of those things, so she felt the shame had to be hers.
The pair broke up a few days later and Tom finished his exchange program and headed back to Australia. He said in the days following the incident he knew, deep down that he had done wrong but he 'sunk the memories deep, then tied a rock to them'. He didn't see it as rape until many years afterwards.
Nine years later, the pair were living on opposite sides of the world: Thordis in Iceland and Tom in Australia. Tom says he turned to substance abuse and couldn't stay still, and it took a lot of time to truly recognise what had happened. Thordis, having had an argument with a loved one, felt the need to write her feelings down and ended up writing a letter to Tom. She documented the hurt she was subjected to, but that she also 'sought forgiveness'.
Since she reached out, they met up in South Africa to face their past. Tom has owned up to his actions, and Thordis found the forgiveness he sought. In their efforts, they found clarity.
And now, they have written a book together called 'South of Forgiveness', hoping to help those in similar situations find reconciliation and forgiveness.
Watch the powerful video below.