Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger had a brief, and sweet, teenage romance when Tom was on student exchange at Thordis' Icelandic school. It came to a brutal end when Tom raped his girlfriend at her home after a Christmas dance. Soon after, he returned to Australia.
Thordis' life was forever changed that night; and for many, many years she kept what happened a secret, not fully comprehending it as rape. For a long time, her success as a playwright, journalist, and advocate for sexual equality and education, was underwritten by a struggle to live with the shame, rage and pain she felt. Eventually, Thordis sent an email to her attacker, confronting him with the ongoing trauma he had caused. She did so from the safe distance of the other side of the world, and did not expect a reply.
Tom's response, accepting responsibility and expressing extreme remorse, began almost a decade of correspondence between the two, culminating in a face-to-face reckoning in Cape Town, South Africa. Thordis and Tom hope that by writing about their own experiences, more people will become involved in the conversation about sexual violence. They also stress that their story is not intended as a guide to recovery, or a template for others to use.
This events was presented by UPLIT in partnership with State Library of Queensland on March 1, 2017, and broadcast on ABC Radio Brisbane's Conversations with Richard Fidler.
This conversation contains strong descriptions of sexual violence, self-harm, and other adult concepts.
We advise it may be upsetting for survivors of sexual abuse.
Unsuitable for children.
Services and information for survivors of sexual assault, or those in crisis:
The Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia website contains a multitude of resources and contacts.
National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732
Mensline Australia website and 24 hour support service 1300 78 99 78
If you are in crisis, you can always contact Lifeline on 13 11 14