Women's festival at Southbank Centre in London drops controversial event with rapist after protests

Icelandic writer was set to discuss event with the man who raped her after a school dance when she was 16

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A controversial talk by a rape survivor and the man who raped her has been removed from the schedule of a women's festival following protests. 

Icelandic writer Thordis Elva was set to speak at the Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre in London at the weekend with Australian Tom Stranger, who raped her when she was 16-years-old and his then-girlfriend. Stranger was 18-years-old at the time and living in Iceland as an exchange student.

Evla contacted him eight years after the incident to tell him how she had been affected, after which an email correspondence and face-to-face meeting formed the basis of a new book by Elva: South of Forgiveness. 

The event was cancelled following protests against Stranger's scheduled appearance at the festival, following talks with the author, her publisher, rape survivor groups and other interested parties, the Guardian reports. 

Instead, a standalone event will be held on 14 March. Stranger will still appear onstage with Elva at the talk, and group discussions will be held afterwards to support anyone whose own memories of sexual assault are triggered, organisers said. 

Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly said the move was made "to enable as many people as possible to contribute outside a festival context".

Kelly also rejected the criticism of the festival, saying the event was created to be an "open, balanced platform for discussion and debate on gender equality and the related ciritical issues that women and men struggle with every day.

"Rape is one of those critical issues and we need to shift the discourse around it, which too often focuses on rape survivors rather than rape perpetrators."

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