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Rape Survivor And Perpetrator Speak Together In Confronting TED Talk

An Australian exchange student and the woman he raped speak together.

09/02/2017 10:19 AM AEDT | Updated 09/02/2017 11:54 AM AEDT

WARNING: This story contains graphic language and descriptions of sexual violence.

A woman who was raped after her high school Christmas dance, and the man who perpetrated the sexual violence, have spoken together in a confronting TED talk.

Icelandic campaigner Thordis Elva and Australian Tom Stranger were dating in 1996 while Stranger was on exchange when the catastrophic incident happened.

Now they're together seeking to address the "global pandemic of sexual violence" by sharing their story.

TED
Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger speak together.

In the talk, Elva described trying rum for the first time, becoming drunk and being taken home by Stranger.

"It was like a fairy tale, his strong arms around me, laying me in the safety of my bed," Elva said at the TEDWomen 2016 event in October.

"But the gratitude that I felt towards him soon turned to horror as he proceeded to take off my clothes and get on top of me.

"My head had cleared up, but my body was still too weak to fight back, and the pain was blinding. I thought I'd be severed in two. In order to stay sane, I silently counted the seconds on my alarm clock. And ever since that night, I've known that there are 7,200 seconds in two hours.

"Despite limping for days and crying for weeks, this incident didn't fit my ideas about rape like I'd seen on TV.

"Tom wasn't an armed lunatic; he was my boyfriend. And it didn't happen in a seedy alleyway, it happened in my own bed.

I disavowed the truth by convincing myself it was sex and not rape. And this is a lie I've felt spine-bending guilt for.Tom Stranger

"By the time I could identify what had happened to me as rape, he had completed his exchange program and left for Australia. So I told myself it was pointless to address what had happened. And besides, it had to have been my fault, somehow."

Stranger said he struggled to come to terms with what he'd done.

"I disavowed the truth by convincing myself it was sex and not rape," Stranger said. "And this is a lie I've felt spine-bending guilt for."

Nine years passed before Elva wrote to Stranger to tell him what he put her through but also to state: "I want to find forgiveness".

Elva and Stranger met, shared their perspectives and have co authored a book together that Elva said she hoped would show that sexual violence is a global pandemic, and that it's not just a 'women's problem'.

"It's about time that we stop treating sexual violence as a women's issue," she said.

"A majority of sexual violence against women and men is perpetrated by men. And yet their voices are sorely underrepresented in this discussion. But all of us are needed here.

"Just imagine all the suffering we could alleviate if we dared to face this issue together."

They will be speaking at the All About Women festival at Sydney Opera House on March 5.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.



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