Ted Talk – South of Forgiveness

This is a fascinating TED Talk. Thordis confronted her rapist Tom nine years after he raped her with a letter. Much to her surprise – he responded. Not just a response, but ownership for what he did and an apology. This is a powerful story of forgiveness and the freedom it can bring both parties involved – the victim and the rapist.

Thordis arrived at the same conclusion I did with my rape – to forgive. Not for the benefit of her rapist, but for herself.  So she could move on.  So she could experience healing.  Not to condone what Tom did or excuse it.  She very clearly places the blame for the rape on Tom, her rapist.  She admits that he was the one to blame for what happened and the only way her rape could have been prevented was if Tom had chosen not to rape her.  Faith is not an element in Thordis’ story, as it is mine, but I find it powerful that forgiveness can lead to healing regardless.

Just as I did, Thordis confronted her rapist with a letter.  I did not write my letter expecting nor wanting a response from my rapist.  I did however get a response.  It was not the response I would have liked.  It was a disgusted and hate-filled stare as he shook his head in disapproval at me through a window.  Thordis however made room for a dialog.  A dialog that led to healing for not only herself, but with her help, for Tom as well.

I am amazed when survivors speak up, but honestly I am even more amazed that Tom spoke up too. That took a lot of courage! At the end of the day, we are all human. I hope no one ever forgets or marginalizes that fact. The moment we do, we are in trouble…

Tom has become a symbol of breaking down stereotypes.  As Jane Gilmore observed in her article “Tom Stranger is articulate, attractive, funny – and a rapist ” for the Sydney Morning Herald:

In the TED Talk, Tom Stranger speaks first and establishes himself as a Nice Guy before we know the details of the rape.  He’s articulate, attractive, sensitive, funny and relatable…Tom Stranger doesn’t look like the mythical rapist, but he does look like a real rapist. And he admits to being a real rapist.

Because of that, he has something valuable to say to the men who commit rape but are unable to conceive of themselves as rapists, or their attitudes to women’s bodies as violent.

At the end of the day, Tom raped Thordis.  He is an everyday man – “the guy next door.”  He’s not a monster.  He made a mistake that changed the trajectory of not only Thordis’ life, but his own.  I think it is courageous that he and Thordis are sharing their stories and debunking rape myths. Rapists aren’t monsters.  They don’t lurk in dark alleys.  They are everyday people.  People most of us probably wouldn’t suspect.  People we may know…

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