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Rape victim and rapist team up to deliver a TED Talk on sexual violence & their road to reconciliation | WATCH

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Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger

A woman who was raped, and the man who raped her, have appeared on stage together to deliver a TED talk recounting the incident and share their perspectives on rape culture.

Thordis Elva and Sam Stranger met in 1996 when Stranger was visiting Elva’s native Iceland on an exchange program from Australia. Elva was 16 at the time and Stranger was 18.

They dated for a few weeks, and one night, they both became intoxicated at a school dance which resulted in Stranger taking her home and putting her to bed.

Thordis Elva

She recalled to the TED Talk audience that:

He proceeded to take off my clothes and get on top of me.” She continued, “My head had cleared up, but my body was still too weak to fight back, and the pain was blinding. 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. 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.

I was raised in a world where girls are taught that they get raped for a reason. Their skirt was too short,their smile was too wide, their breath smelled of alcohol. And I was guilty of all of those things, so the shame had to be mine. It took me years to realize that only one thing could have stopped me from being raped that night, and it wasn’t my skirt, it wasn’t my smile, it wasn’t my childish trust. The only thing that could’ve stopped me from being raped that night is the man who raped me — had he stopped himself.

Tom Stranger

Stranger tells the audience:

I have vague memories of the next day. The after effects of drinking, a certain hollowness that I tried to stifle. Nothing more. But I didn’t show up at Thordis’s door. It is important to now state that I didn’t see my deed for what it was.

To be honest, I repudiated the entire act in the days afterwards and when I was committing it. 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.

I broke up with Thordis a couple of days later, and then saw her a number of times during the remainder of my year in Iceland, feeling a sharp stab of heavyheartedness each time. Deep down, I knew I’d done something immeasurably wrong. But without planning it, I sunk the memories deep, and then I tied a rock to them.

What followed is a nine-year period that can best be titled as “Denial and Running.” When I got a chance to identify the real torment that I caused, I didn’t stand still long enough to do so. Whether it be via distraction, substance use, thrill-seeking or the scrupulous policing of my inner speak, I refused to be static and silent.

And with this noise, I also drew heavily upon other parts of my life to construct a picture of who I was. I was a surfer, a social science student, a friend to good people, a loved brother and son, an outdoor recreation guide, and eventually, a youth worker. I gripped tight to the simple notion that I wasn’t a bad person. I didn’t think I had this in my bones. I thought I was made up of something else. In my nurtured upbringing, my loving extended family and role models, people close to me were warm and genuine in their respect shown towards women. It took me a long time to stare down this dark corner of myself, and to ask it questions.

In this extraordinary talk, Elva and Stranger move through a years-long chronology of shame and silence, and invite us to discuss the omnipresent global issue of sexual violence in a new, honest way.

WATCH:

17 Comments

  1. Big Tee

    February 9, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Not trying to raise any dust… but if this guy was a black, he would be in jail by now….. can’t seem to find any link between “black man rapes – goes to jail” and “white man rapes – gives a TED talk”….. so sorry if I am just being negative…..

    • Marian

      February 9, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Did you watch the video?

    • Big Tee

      February 9, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Yes I did….but Black rapists are usually sent away for a very long time (usually double digits prison years)….. and they usually find it hard to get a job because they are not accepted by the society anymore,..whereas, this guy looks like he is on his way to writing a bestseller with a title like “How I did it” and oyinbo people will still buy it…….

  2. Marian

    February 9, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    They need to play this for high school and college students.
    We need to have more of this discussion in Nigeria because sadly a lot of peoole still don’t consider situations like this as rape.
    As long as it’s not consensual, it’s rape. It does not matter if she was walking around in a bikini or even naked sef and underage people can’t give consent.

  3. tunmi

    February 9, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    So now we have transcripts, yimu. Thank you all the same.

    I’ll admit that I didn’t even want to hear pin from these people. If you’ve gotten to that point that you can have a conversation with your rapist with both of you acknowledging what happened was rape.. Cool. But, I think it is an important dialogue especially coming from the rapist. @Big Tee has a point, outside of black countries, race plays heavy in crimes. So I don’t want this guy to be a bestseller but I do want us to take lessons from it.

    • Joke

      February 10, 2017 at 12:34 am

      Thank you.

  4. Marian

    February 9, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    @Bigtee So white people who have been to prison are accepted with open arms?? You should check the sex offender list in a major city and see how many oyinbo people are there. I think i should also point out this happened in Iceland and not America. You’ve missed the whole point of this story if you can make it about a blk and white issue.

    How many Nigerian rapists have been sent away for a long long time? how many Nigerians who were raped in similar scenarios have reported the crime to the police?

    The guy admitted to it but she did not press charges and made the choice to go this route and use her story to educate. She did say her way was not a template for people to follow.

    • Big Tee

      February 9, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      You have a point and I agree with you on some aspects…. but in on this issue, I just feel like some people with different socio-economic (most times ethnographic) background receive more severe punishments than their Caucasian counterparts, yes there are sex offenders’ lists in developed countries but some people still get a pass. In the Nigerian context, apart from the small pockets of naming and shaming on social media, and a few arrests here and there in the last 3 years, the Nigerian culture of silence seems to protect rapists from getting the punishment they deserve.

    • Kunle

      February 9, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Meanwhile, i think it’s a good idea to start a sexual offenders’ list in Nigeria too. Seems i heard the Lagos state government started it towards the tail end of Fashola’s administration. Don’t know how far with it now though.

  5. Sultana

    February 9, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    They guy should be in jail and she doesn’t need to press charges. It’s a crime. My fear is that there is a tendency to gloss over the heinous crime called rape with this sort of discourse.

    If after serving time; he still wants this Ted talk then I’m all for it!

  6. x-factor

    February 9, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Deep!

  7. Cocobutter

    February 9, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    This is simply glorifying rape, and it is wrong!! I believe that guy would eventually write a book, and some mumu people would buy; and therefore make it a bestseller!!

  8. kay

    February 10, 2017 at 6:05 am

    Making rape great again. It is great as long as it is done by a white person. Nonsense.

  9. J

    February 10, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    No. This is not ok. This is perpetuating rape culture by giving this man a platform. He is scum. I don’t give a f**k how he feels about what he did; the damage is done and she will never be the same because of his lack of control and respect. F**k this. And f**k this victim for allowing this.

    • THE UNHEARD

      February 22, 2017 at 5:22 am

      This makes me so angry, as somone who was raped throughout their childhood this makes me so sick. Good for her if she was able to get over it but they did not deserve a Ted talk or a platform of anytime to spread this Bulls hit around rape is rape, if you don’t have enough self control to keep yourself fromantic raping somone then why the hell do you deserve to be heard. I was a big fan of Ted talks but now I think I’m done this breaks my heart and makes me so sick

  10. Squirt

    February 11, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Has everyone forgotten that it’s HER choice to press charges ? This is how she decided to deal with it. It’s no ones choice but her own. Idiots.

  11. Jake

    February 11, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    You’re dumb

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