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.
Sent: Saturday 21 May 2005, 5.38am
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.
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.
Source By theguardian