South of Forgiveness

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Scribe Publications Pty Limited, Feb 27, 2017 - Biography & Autobiography - 320 pages

A woman, a man, a rape, and a hard journey from violence to reconciliation.

One ordinary spring morning in Reykjavik, Thordis Elva kisses her son and partner goodbye before boarding a plane to do an extraordinary thing: fly seven thousand miles south to meet up with the man who raped her when she was just sixteen.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, Australia, Tom Stranger nervously embarks on an equally life-changing journey, wondering whether he is worthy of this meeting.

After exchanging hundreds of searingly honest emails over eight years, Thordis and Tom decided it was time to speak face to face. Coming from opposite sides of the globe, they meet in the middle, in Cape Town, South Africa, a country that is no stranger to violence and the healing power of forgiveness.

South of Forgiveness is an unprecedented collaboration between a survivor and a perpetrator, each equally committed to exploring the darkest moment of their lives. It is a true story about being bent but not broken, of facing fear with courage, and of finding hope even in the most wounded of places.


‘Extraordinarily moving … Hats off to Elva and Stranger for a brave journey that might well change lives.’ The Sunday Times

South of Forgiveness reads like group therapy: deep pain is unearthed and examined like a jewel beneath a light. Crucially, Elva has the humility to claim she has the same capacity for darkness as Stranger, yet the privilege and power he is afforded as a man means he is more inclined to commit violence … By owning the label ‘‘rapist’’ and exploring his motivations, Stranger allows the mythical perpetrator to be demystified. The monstrous shadow is given meek human form, allowing men’s actions, not women’s, to be interrogated. And through her informed analysis of gender inequality, Elva reveals the social mechanisms that create male sexual entitlement.’ The Weekend Australian

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About the author (2017)

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 that sparked a national debate, and in 2012 she was commissioned to reinvent the approach to violence prevention and sex education in Icelandic schools, resulting in award-winning short films. She has been the Chairman of the Board of the Icelandic Women’s Shelter, has served on government committees, and is a sought-after speaker on subjects like gender equality and non-consensual pornography. She holds a BA in theatre, an MA in Editing and Publishing, and currently resides in Stockholm, Sweden with her partner Vidir and their son.

Thomas Stranger is based in Sydney, Australia. He 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 water based pursuits have been a steady and constant source of rejuvenation, and it’s safe to say this will always be the case. His career path has seen him work in various sectors (Community Services, Charity, Construction, Hospitality) and he remains open to opportunities for change and challenge in the future, but for now is deeply content working locally and residing by Sydney harbour with his fiancé Cat.