A TED talk featuring a rape survivor and her perpetrator went viral soon after it was released in October 2016. Five months later, the survivor is still explaining her reasons for forgiving the rapist and collaborating with him.
The survivor, Thordis Elva, and rapist, Tom Stranger, have co-written the book South of Forgiveness based on their individual and collective perspectives about the crime he committed. Stranger was her boyfriend in 1996, and after a school dance, he forcibly had sex with her without her consent. She was 16 and he was 18 at the time. They fell apart and did not communicate for many years. For nine years, Elva was able to go on with life, but she eventually reached the point of a nervous breakdown. This is when she decided to write Stranger a letter about how she was feeling. He responded with a written confession.
In the TED Talk, they speak about the way the crime was committed, Elva's trauma and Stranger's reaction to his own deeds.
This talk has received a lot more criticism than praise, citing the reason that Elva has let her perpetrator get away with the crime. On 6 March, 2017, Elva was asked a question related to forgiveness in those instances where the rapist has not accepted their mistake or completely under in an ABC show.
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) March 6, 2017
For Elva, forgiving her perpetrator translated into self-healing. "People somehow think you are giving the perpetrator something when you forgive but, in my view, it is the complete polar opposite. Forgiving was, for me, so that I could let go of the self-blame and shame that I had wrongfully shouldered ..." she said, explaining that the forgiveness was never meant for Stranger.
Josephine Cashman, lawyer and survivor's advocate advised Australian women against forgiving their perpetrators rather than reporting them to the police. She said that domestic abuse victims who choose to let their abusers get away with crimes enter a vicious cycle.
Elva, on the other hand expressed a lack of faith in courts and punishment systems, citing that they are too lenient.
Updated Date: Mar 07, 2017 18:26 PM