94% of all sexual assault cases go unreported and 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (source). These statistics sadly aren’t much of a shock when you consider how much the media and society sexualize women. Given the enormity of the stigma surrounding rape culture, do you really blame survivors or their rapists for not wanting to come forward?

Society often pities rape survivors, deeming them as damaged or even blaming them for what happened. Women are told their skirts were too high or that they must have somehow “been asking for it.” In some situations, survivors could even be killed for reporting their perpetrators. It’s rare for rapists to own up to their crimes as well because they’re ostracized and dehumanized, as society has so little compassion for them even though they arguably need it most.

Survivor Thordis Elva and her rapist Tom Stranger are challenging that stigma together by discussing both sides of the story: from the rapist’s and the survivor’s perspectives. Although they both took part in the same story, they had opposing experiences, which in turn affected their lives very differently. In hopes of inspiring other rape victims and rapists to face their inner struggles, they gave a Ted Talk together.

Why This Victim Chose to Forgive Her Rapist

If you’ve been raped, it can be easy (and completely understandable) to place the blame on yourself, be embarrassed, angry, or ashamed, suppress your emotions, or misplace your despair on others, or even worse, on yourself.

However, as Thordis so kindly points out, “the only thing that could’ve stopped me from being raped that night is the man who raped me.” At the end of the day, you cannot control another person’s actions. Yes, you have the power to manifest and create your own reality, but so does everyone else. There’s no point in over-analyzing or regretting your actions because the victim’s actions are ultimately never the cause of rape.

As Tom says, “Far too often the responsibility is attributed to female survivors of sexual violence and not the males who enact it. Far too often the denial and running leaves all parties at a great distance from the truth.”

Part of the issue with rape culture is the victimization of sexual assault survivors and the immense amount of judgement placed on the perpetrators. This prevents both parties from feeling comfortable in expressing their emotions or sharing their experiences with others.

Yes, the rapist is responsible for his or her actions and the blame should never be placed on the victim, but just because the rapist committed a violent act doesn’t make him or her a bad person. Souls that succumb to violence are simply lost, so instead of judging them for their actions we need to help them see their actions for what they truly are.