I’m aware this post is going to make me look like the saltiest girl in all the land, but I’ve had this on my chest for such a long time and I just need to vent.

Let’s talk about Twitter beef, shall we?

I’m not going to name names, and if you know who was involved with this, please, please don’t tweet them. That’s not what this is about.

A long time ago now, someone tweeted about the book South of Forgiveness, written by Thordis Elva in collaboration with Tom Stranger – the man who raped her.

The tweet was one of outrage, but after I read up on what Elva was doing, I actually found it commendable, and very much worthwhile. So, I queried why the person felt this way. Why did they not think this could be a positive thing? I was politely, if a bit abruptly, told they didn’t want to engage with me. Fair enough.

That night, I wrote a think piece defending the forgiveness project. You can read it here.

The following day, I tweeted the person back, asking respectfully for their opinion on it. I even said, no pressure, if you really don’t want to.

Perhaps this was a mistake. They did say they didn’t want to discuss the issue, but I thought my tweet was innocent enough. I also assumed that if they tweeted about it in the first place, they’d be open for a discussion on it.

I honestly didn’t think I’d done anything offensive, and I genuinely wanted to hear this person’s opinion, as I respected them.

What followed was a furious DM accusing me of harassing them and forcing them to comment publicly on something they didn’t want to discuss. I was confused – had I not said I honestly didn’t mind if they didn’t reply? They claimed I was being aggressive. If anything, I thought messaging me privately was the hostile move, but I was completely ready to apologise for my error in judgement.

I began writing a sincere reply, when suddenly I was blocked. Shit. So this person thought I was attacking them, told me as much, then blocked me before I could even respond.

I was mortified. I hadn’t meant for any of this to happen, and now I had no way of making amends.

Then, I did something I probably shouldn’t have done: I got angry. I sent a shitty subtweet calling them out (not by name though). I was shaking by this point, I felt so upset.

I was swiftly unblocked and DM’d again. More accusations of harassment. This time I was able to reply, but by now things had spiralled.

I noticed they’d tweeted something that was clearly about me, followed by another tweet saying they didn’t have time for ‘rape apologists’. I felt like I was going to be sick. Is this really what they thought of me?

That was when I decided to text some of my friends. I was hurt, angry and shocked.

My friends reassured me that my piece didn’t come across like that at all. But the person hadn’t read my post, so they wouldn’t know that.

Soon after, things got a bit out of hand. Some of my friends sent angry subtweets. I didn’t ask for that, but we were all fuming and got caught up in the heat of the moment, as you might in an IRL fight.

In the end, everything cooled off, and though we were no longer following each other, we’d reached a sort of truce.

I’ve since disagreed with them about other things. Was I bitter? Maybe. I was quickly blocked again.

Since that big old dish of Twitter beef, I’ve seen that person talk about being bullied for ‘telling it like it is’. I’ve seen them denounce entire groups of people, warning others against their problematic nature.

I’ve had their followers call me a bully and accuse me of being hostile. I believe my behaviour was once branded ‘disgusting’.

But I’ve also had people privately DM me their support, telling me that they’d also been on the receiving end of this sort of disproportionate aggression.

‘Telling it like it is’ is absolutely fine. I’m outspoken in my own way, but if challenged, I will always respond and try to see the other person’s point of view. I know I’m not obligated to do so (and am not suggesting anyone ever is), but I feel that if I’m sharing my thoughts on a public platform, I should be comfortable enough to discuss them in the first place. It’s not comfortable having people disagree with you, but you know what? Many times, I’ve had my mind changed, or at the very least seen things in a less black and white way.

Challenging opinions politely, isn’t bullying. Asking someone to engage in a conversation, isn’t bullying.

Yes, I probably didn’t handle things as well as I could have done on that day, and I deeply regret that the whole thing got as ugly as it did.

But did I deserve to be accused of the things I was? Definitely not.

Don’t be afraid to challenge and ask questions. Most people will happily share their point of view with you and won’t see your question as a personal attack.

We need to keep it nice, though. I’ll put my hand up and say I’ve said things I regret online, and I apologise for that.

The accusations got ugly that day and I guess I’m not really over what happened. That said, this person was later subjected to real, vicious bullying, and I spoke up about it; I don’t condone vile insults or trolls.

But I also don’t condone being called a bully or rape apologist for simply trying to suggest there may be another way to look at something.

For the record, I stand by what I wrote, and anyone who’d actually give my piece the time might realise that I’m not quite as heinous as they thought.

I’ve had numerous other discussions with many other people, about various ‘controversial’ topics, and found that the response to my questions has always been rudeness, followed by a swift unfollow or block.

Feel free to stay in your echo chamber and pretend that people are ‘attacking’ you just because you ‘tell it like it is’. I’m sure many will continue to applaud you.

It’s perfectly fine to have strong opinions, but if you respond to those opinions being challenged with anger, condescension or simply telling someone to ‘educate themselves’, perhaps you need to have a think about why you’re being so defensive.

What Thordis Elva is doing isn’t dangerous, but thinking we have a claim to her pain is.

Yesterday, Cosmopolitan published the remarkable story of Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger. To summarise briefly, the pair were in a relationship 20 years ago. One night, when Thordis was drunk, Tom forced himself on her. She was 16.

Years later, she reached out to him, and the pair embarked on a journey down the long road to forgiveness. Now they give talks about what happened all those years ago, and have co-authored a book, South of Forgiveness.

The article stirred up a lot of outrage on Twitter, and while I can understand where it’s coming from, I think we need look a bit deeper.

I appreciate that the issue here is that Tom has been given a platform. He doesn’t deserve to have a voice – he’s a rapist after all, right?

No. I simply don’t agree. While I don’t sympathise with him or condone what he did, he has a right to share his story. A story that I believe carries an important message. His account details how over the years he faced up to what he did, and shifted the blame of the attack onto himself. He learned that being in a relationship with someone doesn’t entitle you to their body, a lesson I fear many others have yet to learn. If his story stops just one other person from committing the same awful crime he did, then surely his openness is a positive thing.

As Thordis herself puts it,

“I understand those who are inclined to criticize me as someone who enabled a perpetrator to have a voice in this discussion. But I believe that a lot can be learned by listening to those who have been a part of the problem — if they’re willing to become part of the solution — about what ideas and attitudes drove their violent actions, so we can work on uprooting them effectively.”

I couldn’t agree more. I may not feel comfortable reading the words of a rapist, but I truly feel that the positive impact of his candour will far outweigh my uneasiness. It’s clear that Thordis understands the seriousness of what she’s doing, and I think we should trust that they will use their platform responsibly.

Thordis wants to share her story, and for reasons we don’t need to understand, she wants Tom to be a part of that. By suggesting Tom shouldn’t have a voice, are we not saying Thordis shouldn’t either?

Many people have sadly gone through what Thordis did, and quite understandably wouldn’t be able to forgive their attacker. But we can still support what she is doing without invalidating our own feelings. There is no ‘right’ way to recover from sexual assault and while we might not understand how Thordis is able to have the relationship she does with Tom, we have to respect her right to do what she needs to heal.

You have every right to be outraged.

No-one would blame you if you didn’t want to read their book or listen to what they have to say. But for every person that disagrees with what they’re doing is another person that could draw strength from their story of forgiveness. So please don’t be so quick to brand what they’re doing as ‘dangerous’.

Tom has a voice here because Thordis has given it to him. If we silence him, we are effectively silencing her. And that’s dangerous.

You can watch their Ted Talk here.