Thordis Elva was crimes aged 16. Years subsequently, she emailed Tom Stranger, the man who raped her, beginning a raw, agonizing healing process documented in their work South of Forgiveness. In this remove, they meet to find a way forward
Thordis Elva is from Iceland and known to Icelandersas a columnist, playwright, journalist and public speaker. She was voted Woman of the Time 2015 by the Federation of Icelandic Womens Societies in Reykjavik for her is currently working on gender equality, and has written a celebrated notebook on gender-based violence, 2009 s mannamli( The Plain Truth ). She currently resides in Stockholm, Sweden with her collaborator Vidir and their son . Tom Stranger is Australian. He fulfilled Elva when he was 18 and on a student exchange programme in Iceland, and the pair had a relationship. Since then, he has worked in various sectors( community services, youth, outdoor recreation, charity, structure, and hospitality ). For now, he is working as a landscape gardener and lives in Sydney with his wife, Cat .
From: tomsstranger @hotmail. com
Sent : Saturday 21 May 2005, 5.38 am
To : thordiselva @hotmail. com
Subject: Words for you
Thordis, I dont wondering where to start. When I saw your call in my inbox, my spine disappeared cold. My memories are still as clear as era. Please believe me when I say I have not forgotten what I did, and how apprehensive I have to be of myself .
I dont know how to reply. I want to call myself sick( but I know I am not ), I want to say that you are so strong, so strong to be able to write to me and recall the events and my activities. I want to thank you for not hating me, although Id like you to. It would make it easier for me .
Without looking for a scraping of empathy, I want to tell you that the events and passions I was party to in Iceland have replayed in my head many times, frequently when I am by myself for any period of era. They flash past me, vividly accurate, and then, shortly after the end of the prohibition and positive reputation reinforcement, comes the issues to: Who am I? It is a dark part of my memory. Ive tried to suppress it .
But this is not about me. Whatever I can do or render you, I am more than eager. The question is where to go from here. You tell me .
After eight years of analyze the violent past and its consequences in a written mail, Thordis and Tom decide to meet up in the middle, between their home countries of Iceland and Australia, looking to face their past once and for all.
Day one, 27 March 2013
The taxi selects me up at a quarter to five and takes me to the bus depot, where Im booked on the fly-bus. The grizzled taxi move, hoisting my suitcase into the trunk with a smooth exercise, has asked me where Im going.
To South Africa.
Oh, truly? To Johannesburg?
No, to Cape Town, I reply, still in disbelief at my own texts despite the time Ive had to adjust to the idea. It would be an understatement to say that the proposed see has been on my subconsciou. Its resounded in each step when Ive become out for a guide; its been in every breath of cold winter air that raked the insides of my lungs; its drenched the soggy washcloth I used to clean my sons sticky fingers. And Ive tried my best to pushing it out of my knowledge when making love to my fiance, enjoying his warm scalp against mine.
After all, that would be a highly improper time to be thinking about it.
From the moment the end was placed, I adapted to a brand-new calendar before or after Cape Town. The last experience I bought disinfectant I automatically deduced that I wouldnt have to buy another one until after Cape Town. Yesterday, when huddling down with my three-year-old son to do some painting together, investing quality time with him BC temporarily conciliated my remorse for leaving him for 10 periods to advance halfway across the globe to face a soldier from the past without such guarantees of the outcome.
Something tells me that parents of young children are not means to taking these foolhardy decisions. Thats the reason I gave up my nightmares of parachuting when I descended pregnant with my son. Then again, shedding myself out of an aeroplane at 7,000 hoofs carries little psychological jeopardy than taking a expedition down memory lane with the man who turned my world upside down. Because it wasnt an unknown lunatic who rent “peoples lives” apart all those years ago. Who refused to do so the present of medical help for me, although there is I was just conscious and vomiting convulsively. Who decided instead to abuse me for two limitless hours.
It was my first love.
My babies eyes flew wide open when I told her that I was roaming alone to South Africa to meet up with “the mens” who crimes me when I was 16. She strung together a series of hair-raising worst-case scenarios before making out a exhale, looking at me with loving distaste, and including: But I know its senseless to try to talk you out of things youve adjust your thinker to, dear. Shortly thereafter, my pa ended my carrying where reference is dropped by for a coffee. Despite my attempt to break the news to him in the gentlest manner possible, it didnt prevent him from freaking out. He taught me in a thundering expression about how I was jeopardising “peoples lives” for an altogether nonsensical idea.
But I have to finish this chapter of my life, I said softly. My neck were on fire.
Finish this chapter? he recited, appalled, and jump-start out of his chair. You dont need to travel across the globe to finish anything! This whole idea is a big ostentatious drama, thats what it is!
His paroles affected me right where it hurts.
Youll have no control over anything. Good-for-nothing but your thoughts! Good-for-nothing else!
What do you signify? I questioned, perplexed. Ill certainly hold my acts and whereabouts.
No you wont, dear, he hissed. You cant ever. If you are able, then that wouldnt have happened.
We both knew what he meant by that, even though weve never talked about the incident that changed everything. In recent years, Ive spoken widely and publicly about my status as a crime survivor( though, until now, never determined the man who raped me) yet my father and I have never discussed that momentous darknes. He has never requested and Ive ever presupposed he doesnt want to know.
I set up straight-out, aware of my shine cheek. If you shorten me to victim and him to perpetrator, I can see how this seems incomprehensible to you. But were much more than that, Dad.
He scoffed aloud before storming out of the kitchen.
I leant against the wall and let the air out of my lungs slowly. Goddamn it . I knew this would be hard, but vicious hell.
My father appeared again in the doorway, pacing up and down with annoyance I knew was fuelled by fatherly love. How can you be sure youll finish anything with this nonsense? This may just as readily be the start of something else altogether! The distress in his expres built it sound like a threat.
I baby-sit alone in the silence my father left behind and watched the dust determine. In a space, I think were both privilege. This trip will definitely recognized an expiration to a certain section of “peoples lives”. What defines me apart from my father is my ideology that in the next chapter, I wont be the main victims any more.
Day two, 28 March 2013
The screen in the seatback in front of me evidences a blinking airplane over a delineate. Harmonizing to the timer, Cape Town is just 29 hours away. The butterflies in my gut nose-dive, as the time seems path too limited considering how many questions are left unanswered.
Goddamn it, what if I cant forgive him? Am I ready to let go?
Frustrated, I scroll through the folder on my laptop, searching for something to soothe my nerves. I was level-headed enough when I showed this journey, wasnt I? In an attempt to recover my faith in this risky endeavour, I read through my own proposition 😛 TAGEND
You may need a lifetime to forgive yourself for what you did to me. That is up to you and you take nonetheless long this is necessary, independent of anyone else .
I, however, am climbing a different mountain. And I am get very close to the top .
I propose that in six months time, we meet up with the intent of contacting forgiveness, once and for all. In person .
It is the only proper way in order to be allowed to do it, I feel. No word is capable of being are comparable to face-to-face communication. And after all weve been through, I think it is the most decorous and honest practice to finish this chapter of our storey .
I sound so calm, so fucking reasonable . How is it possible that this was written by the same person now hyperventilating in a plane 30,000 ft over South Africa, full of nerve-racking disbelief?
Reading through his reply, Im rather comforted that he, very, felt conflicted 😛 TAGEND
Ill admit that I was floored by your request to meet up. Fearful, anxious, cautious, paranoid. You refer it, it all came crowding in. But youve asked, and you sound like you are inducing vital dirt towards something very special for yourself. So of course Ill agree to see you. After much gues I do think it will be beneficial, and chances for myself to air face-to-face some long hampered words and for us both to look to close some doorways .
I want it for you, Thordis, as you seem strong, open and ready to see me and move forward. I require it for me because Im so very sick of being sick and appreciating myself as unlovable, and conceive I can move on if I could just seem you in the face, own up to it and say Im sorry .
Forgiveness is the only way, I tell myself, because whether or not he deserves my forgiveness, I deserve peacefulnes. Because Im doing this for me. My forgiveness is white-hot from the whetstone, and its purpose is to sever the ties, because if I can make this run, once and for all, Im certain that my overall wellbeing will benefit greatly. Self-preservation at its best.
Day four , 30 March 2013
Its seven oclock when we buy ourselves a suck at the hotel forbid and sit down by a table coping with the plot, readying ourselves for the hard talk. The windowpane rattles aloud, and an interminable creek of staff sweeping the area confuses me to the level where I give up. What do you say about us finishing this conversation in my area?
He looks at me, appalled. Are you sure? Youre comfy with that?
Im sure that itll be easier to have this talk if we get proper privacy. Its tough enough as it is.
Tom extends ever-increasing anxiety as the elevator clambers closer to the 12 th flooring. Unlike him, my ardours have calmed down.
Almost serene, I step out of the elevator. Theres no turning back now.
He immerses his hands in his pockets as I fish my key out of my purse in front of my inn area. Putting my hand on the doorknob, it morphs into the lily-white plastic door-handle with the keyhole that haunts my nightmares. Within me, everything tumbles silent. Ready? I ask myself.
Without hesitation, I turn the key.
Tom follows me inside my room, takes a look around and smiles nervously. Not bad.
Sit wherever you like. Im going to do some tea.