Woman Speaks Openly About Rape Alongside Man Who Attacked Her

by : Francesca Donovan on : 10 Mar 2017 00:00

Thordis Elva was 16 when she was raped for two hours by then-boyfriend, 18-year-old Tom Stranger after a school dance.

Decades on and the pair have reunited to debunk some myths society perpetuates about rapists, those who survive them and sexual consent.

After painful reconciliation, Thordis and Tom have now written a book together titled South of Forgiveness, and yesterday appeared on BBC Newsnight to discuss their campaign.


Presenter, Emily Matliss asked Tom if he considered himself a rapist, to which he replied:

It’s been a long process of me understanding the gravity of my actions and the damage I’ve caused… I sanctioned my own needs over Thordis’ well-being.

There’s an attitude that when a boy goes out partying with his girlfriend he’s entitled to sex.

And of course, it wasn’t sex. I took that attitude to a very dark place. I understand that this is a pervasive issue and it’s happening behind closed doors and I would like to not be complicit in the continuation of that.


Thordis recalled the immediate physical and long-term emotional damage Tom caused perpetrated when he raped her as a 16-year-old girl, barely conscious after consuming alcohol for the first time.

She described a reluctance as a young woman to ‘stand still’ for fear of reflection on her trauma, and instead hit rock bottom when she resorted to self-harm and alcoholism.

It was at this point, she wrote a letter that would change her life – and Tom’s life – forever by calling for Tom to take responsibility for his crime.

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Thordis explained the reasoning behind their collaborative campaign:

We’re just offering our story in the hope that it will do a number of things. One, that it will shift the focus from the survivor – whose attire and behaviour has long been subject to scrutiny which contributes to this victim-blaming culture – onto the perpetrator, where the responsibility lies.

We’re also hoping to dismantle the monster myth, that it is this unknown armed assailant.

TED Women 2016

Although Thordis and Tom are collaborating on this project to debunk some of society’s rape myths using their own personal story, Thordis confirmed the pair are by no means friends.


All the proceeds from the sale of South of Forgiveness are going to charity. You can listen to Thordis and Tom’s full account of the rape and the reconciliation via TED Talks.

If you have been affected by any issues bravely confronted by Thordis and Tom, please contact Rape Crisis.

Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.

Topics: Film and TV, Sensitive


BBC Newsnight
  1. BBC Newsnight

    'Why I wrote a book with my rapist': Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger - BBC Newsnight