an eye for an eye

The responses to my blog post are still rolling in furiously two days later: “Hooray for you for defending yourself!” “That’ll teach him— we girls aren’t easy targets!” “You should have kicked him in the groin, too, not just in the face. He deserved what he got.” “He didn’t give you a choice. You did what you were forced to do.”

I’m shocked and saddened. These same people, almost all of whom would condemn the death penalty or even corporal punishment on the basis that violence in response to violence is neither appropriate nor beneficial, have now rallied around me with their virtual torches in support of what I’m coming to realise was the lowest moment so far in my spiritual development. I didn’t get half this amount of comments when I posted that I had finally graduated from university after a ten-year struggle. I guess personal achievement is not as popular as revenge.

Let me be clear about what happened: I was not defending myself. The man was not after me, he was after my phone. At the point when I made the choice to kick him in the face, he was not attacking me, and in fact he was not even facing me. My phone had fallen out of my hand when he hit me, and after that he was scrambling on the ground to retrieve the phone, not the least bit interested in what I was doing. If it were my safety I was worried about, I could have taken the opportunity to run away at that moment. Instead I turned toward him, kicked him square in the middle of the face as hard as I could, and when he fell back I grabbed my phone from the ground and ran away.

So even after all those NLP anger dissipation courses and what I thought was years of progressing away from my indoctrinated eye-for-an-eye cultural upbringing, it still seems that when put in a situation where I don’t have time to think, my snap reflex when wronged is to lash out and punish. That worries me much more than the possibility of ever being attacked again. I thought that reading the words of other women who had gone through the same thing might help me come to terms with what I’m feeling, but most of the women I read about are now afraid of men or afraid of going out or afraid of dark streets. Me, I’m afraid I don’t know how to control myself.

When I talk about “the attack,” people always assume I’m talking about the man’s attack on me. But I think it’s safe to assume that what he did came from a place of immense desperation and situational anguish. He did not wake up that morning with my name on his lips and a personal vendetta. So what’s my excuse? I chased after him as much as he chased after me, and it didn’t take much provocation. I thought I was in a better spiritual place than to literally kick a man who was already down in every sense of the word. His life was at a low enough point that he was willing to punch a human in the eye over a fifty dollar phone. And apparently I am at a low enough point that I am willing to kick a human in the face over the same fifty dollar phone.

Most women who have post-attack trauma say that when they close their eyes they can see flashes of their attacker coming after them. Me, I see the moment when I was already fifty metres down the road and glanced back to glimpse the man I kicked still lying on the ground. My heart aches every time I think about it. I’m very sorry for what I did. It wasn’t right. Sure, what he did wasn’t right either, of course, but that doesn’t give me carte blanche to go around kicking people’s faces in. It was not my proudest moment.

Being a grown-up is hard. I’m trying to accept what happened and learn and move on.

Melissa, 34, Antalya, Turkey