Monday night’s Q&A featured Icelandic anit-violence campaigner Thordis Elva, journalist Mei Fong, lawyer Josephine Cashman, writer Lindy West and presenter Faustina Agolley.
The panel spoke about many issues, including the A Day Without Women campaign and Trump’s “so-called misogyny” before addressing the most anticipated issue: Thordis Elva and her path to forgiving her rapist, Tom Stranger.
Elva’s 2016 Ted Talk where she discussed being raped at 16 by Stranger as she stood beside him on stage has been viewed more than two million times. She has since written a book with Stranger detailing the journey of their 20-year process of reconciliation and is currently in Australia as part of her global tour.
@thordiselva #allaboutwomen ‘women’s stories need to be heard more than ever. We need all the #nastywomen to #makesomenoise @TraceySpicer pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/W3tNMO12rs
— NarelleHooper (@NarelleHooper) March 5, 2017Forgiveness can help victims
Elva has used her public appearances to emphasise her actions were solely to help her heal.
“Forgiviness is not dependent on the perpetrator’s remorse. Forgiveness was never for him, in fact, it was the polar opposite. It was so I could let go of the self-blame and shame that I had wrongfully shouldered, that were corroding me and basically ruining my life.”
“Forgiveness isn’t for the abuser”, Thordis Elva told Q and A on Monday night,ABC
Elva told the Q&A panel on Monday night about her decision to write to Stranger nine years after the rape because “I just needed to state my case.”
Through Stranger’s “unexpected” reply confessing to the rape, Elva was able to maintain a connection with Stranger and start a dialogue she felt necessary to explore.
“So, after eight years of writing, and nearly 16 years after that dire night, I mustered the courage to propose a wild idea: that we’d meet up in person and face our past once and for all”, Elva told the audience at her Ted Talk.
Not recommended for “the average victim”
While this approach has helped Elva come to terms with her rape, Josephine Cashman urged Australians to steer clear of going down this path.
Cashman said the process of forgiving a rapist would not help every woman and urged Australians to maintain their faith in the legal system.
“I would advise against anybody in Australia going down this course for public policy reasons, because the courts are the best place, and the police. If someone rapes you, the best place to go is the police.”
While Elva says all traces of physical evidence was gone by the time she realised she was raped, Cashman wanted Australian women to know physical evidence is not essential to beginning a rape investigation in Australia.
Our court system has evolved & it’s not going to work to have rapists contacting victims, says @Josieamycashman @thordiselva replies #QandA pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/d1JA9e5W3w
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) March 6, 2017
Cashman also described domestic violence as “a perpetual cycle”, explaining that too many victims of abuse had gone on to forgive their abusers with subsequent fatal results.
“The only way people like these [perpetrators] changed their behaviour is by being held to account”, she said.
Benefitting from the proceeds of a crime
“Will Tom donate 100% of his proceeds to victims?”, one audience posed, questioning what Stranger would do with the money he is to receive from the book he co-wrote with Elva, “South of Forgiveness”.
Elva explained that as the primary author, she was entitled to the “overwhelming royalties” of the book. Stranger, who received a “small part”, was said to be currently looking into various charities that he could donate his portion to.
Althought Stranger was never convicted, donating his share would align with Australian legislation, where it is against the law to profit from the proceeds of crime.
Why should a rapist profit from his crime? @Josieamycashman & @thordiselva discuss the justice system #QandA pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/a9G1E2jOwE
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) March 6, 2017Changing the rape culture
When host Tony Jones mentioned some people feeling “confronted” by her Ted Talk with Stranger, Elva clarified she was not glorifying rape.
“It’s not about applauding a rapist but giving them a voice to the immeasurable hurt that he has caused.”
She said that offenders never spend any jail time in 98 per cent of cases and that her story is one of “millions” that fell through the cracks of the legal system.
Instead of regulating women’s sexual behaviour. Let’s focus instead on real issue: teaching men why consent matters & never optional. #qanda
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) March 6, 2017
At a time when “the leader of the most powerful country in the Western world” is normalising sexual assault as “part of men’s culture and locker room talk”, Elva said she’s one of many trying to flip that narrative by calling for abusers to take responsibility for their actions, even when the legal system can’t facilitate it.
Elva told the panel that survivors are consistently told how to cope with their abuse which is another aspect of the victim-blaming culture.
“Part of something that we have to do is to support survivors, to do whatever feels safe for them and not tell them that there is a right or a wrong way to react when you are violated.”
Watch: Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger’s Ted Talk