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South of Forgiveness: Sexual Violence and Reckoning


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‘Forgiveness is the only way, I tell myself, because whether or not he deserves my forgiveness, I deserve peace.’

Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger met as teenagers when he was an exchange student in Iceland. They were an ordinary high-school couple until one evening, Tom raped Thordis. Tom returned to Australia soon after.

Nine years later, Thordis contacted Tom via email and confronted him. Many years of painful communication between the two followed until eventually, they met up in person in the hopes that Thordis could forgive Tom’s acts and both could move on.

Today, Thordis Elva is a journalist, playwright and activist and among the most prominent feminist voices in Iceland. Her most recent project is a confronting work of non-fiction. It’s a book, South of Forgiveness, and it’s co-authored by Tom Stranger. South of Forgiveness tells their true story of violence and reckoning; a collaboration between rape survivor and perpetrator that is without precedent.

In a candid conversation with Natasha Mitchell, Thordis and Tom will discuss their collaboration and the consequences of sexual violence. Please note, a warning: this will be a confronting discussion focusing on a true story of a sex crime.

Thordis Elva’s visit is supported by the Icelandic Literature Fund.

This discussion includes topics that some attendees may find confronting. Audience questions from this event will not be recorded and published.


Thordis Elva

Thordis Elva is known to Icelanders as a writer, journalist, public speaker and Woman of the Year 2015. Nine of her plays have been professionally produced, and her book about gender-based violence earned her a nomination for the Icelandic Literature Prize. In 2011, she founded an equality campaign ... Read more

Thomas Stranger

Thomas Stranger has worked in both the youth and outdoor recreation sector since completing his Bachelor of Social Science in 2002. He also holds Certificate III and IV in Youth Work, and is currently in the latter stages of a Masters of Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. Outdoor and... Read more

Natasha Mitchell

Natasha Mitchell is a multi-award winning journalist, presenter and podcaster with the ABC, presenting flagship national programs including Life Matters (2012-2016), founder of the popular show All in the Mind (2002-12), and now a new science, culture and storytelling program, Science Friction on AB... Read more


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