Can I forgive the man who raped me?

Thordis Elva was raped aged 16. Years later, she emailed Tom Stranger, the man who raped her, beginning a raw, painful healing process documented in their book South of Forgiveness. In this extract, they meet to find a way forward

Thordis Elva is from Iceland and known to Icelanders as a writer, playwright, journalist and public speaker. She was voted Woman of the Year 2015 by the Federation of Icelandic Women’s Societies in Reykjavik for her work on gender equality, and has written a celebrated book on gender-based violence, 2009’s Á mannamáli (“The Plain Truth”). She currently resides in Stockholm, Sweden with her partner Vidir and their son.
Tom Stranger is Australian. He met Elva when he was 18 and on a student exchange programme in Iceland, and the pair had a relationship. Since then, he has worked in various sectors (community services, youth, outdoor recreation, charity, construction, and hospitality). For now, he is working as a landscape gardener and lives in Sydney with his wife, Cat.

From: tomsstranger@hotmail.com
Sent: Saturday 21 May 2005, 5.38am
To: thordiselva@hotmail.com
Subject: Words for you

Thordis, I don’t know where to start. When I saw your name in my inbox, my spine went cold. My memories are still as clear as day. Please believe me when I say I have not forgotten what I did, and how wary I have to be of myself.

I don’t know how to reply. I want to call myself sick (but I know I am not), I want to say that you are so strong, so strong to be able to write to me and recall the events and my actions. I want to thank you for not hating me, although I’d like you to. It would make it easier for me.
Without looking for a scratch of sympathy, I want to tell you that the events and emotions I was party to in Iceland have replayed in my head many times, usually when I am by myself for any length of time. They flash past me, vividly accurate, and then, shortly after the denial and positive character reinforcement, comes the question: “Who am I?” It is a dark part of my memory. I’ve tried to suppress it.
But this is not about me. Whatever I can do or offer you, I am more than willing. The question is where to go from here. You tell me.

Tom.

*****

After eight years of analysing the violent past and its consequences in a written correspondence, Thordis and Tom decide to meet up in the middle, between their home countries of Iceland and Australia, looking to face their past once and for all.

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Source By theguardian

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