I just saw an excellent, riveting movie - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - where a woman was abused and took control of the situations and avenged the crimes against her. I was blown away. First, I haven’t seen a movie in a very long time where the woman is not only not the perpetual victim but is also powerful enough and skilled enough to overtake her attackers or abusers without hesitation or apology. The last movie I recall seeing this kind of empowerment of a woman was Long Kiss Goodnight with Geena Davis, and that character is weak in comparison to the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Seeing a woman in power - even considering the violence involved in taking that power and asserting that power - was pretty exhilarating. But is revenge a good thing? And if it is a bad thing, why does it feel so good?
I’ve blogged about my own difficult business situation with a business partner/boyfriend who controlled everything including me. I felt disempowered and while I never thought of exacting revenge after I finally extricated myself from the situation, looking back I am so frustrated by being stripped of my confidence during that time.
What I haven’t blogged about before is an abusive relationship I was in while I was in college. I blog about it now - and here on my Entrepreneur Mom blog - because it helps me peel away the remnants of my fragile self-confidence, that terrible place that left me vulnerable to bad relationships in both my personal and my professional life. If I had addressed the abuse I experienced sooner, I think I would have reconnected with my personal power and would have seen all the red flags in later relationships.
I don’t want to make this into a sob story or portray myself as a helpless victim. Having worked as the executive director at a nonprofit organization years later with a mission to build awareness about domestic violence and the issues surrounding battered woman’s syndrome, I have intellectually worked through what happened to me.
But here is the short version of my story.
In my junior year in college, I met a guy who was a few years younger than me. I was going to college in the town where he lived. The first time he got physical with me, he pushed me up against the wall and shouted at me in his mother’s home. His mother came upstairs to find me crying hysterically. When we explained our sides of the conflict, she sided with him telling me that I should just let him be - that I had brought the attack on myself.
Our relationship was very unstable emotionally but mostly me trying to pull him out of depression. We were erratic and irrational with one another. Finally I moved to the next town and enrolled in a different college but he eventually followed me and we rented a duplex together. How our next door neighbors never heard him throw me into walls and screaming at me, I’ll never know. Or maybe they did hear but did nothing.
He also would throw me on the floor and step on me or pin me down in a wrestling move and scream in my face, his own red with anger, veins bulging, sweat glistening on his skin. Eventually, I would run and cower from him when he would barely lift a hand, and he would ridicule me for being so “hysterical.” I remember him standing over me as I tried to squeeze under the bathroom sink, mocking me. I remember holding a kitchen knife up and telling him to get away from me. He just laughed, and said I was crazy.
I didn’t realize how something in my perceptions had shifted during this time. Maybe it was when I called the police, and they told me I should just let him be, let him calm down, not get in his face and make him angry. Regardless, I began to consider my life and the relationship normal. Then one day a nice guy in town asked me to go to a movie as a friend. I accepted.
We exited the movie theatre to find my boyfriend waiting for us outside. He began cursing at me and followed us to my car. When we got in, he jumped on the hood of my car. I started to drive, slowly. I couldn’t remember where the police station was so drove in front of the diner where I worked part time. The bartender saw what was happening through he window, shouted to the cook and the manager, and the three men burst out of the diner, yanked him from the car, and pinned my boyfriend to the ground.
During this ordeal, the guy sitting in the car witnessing this kept saying to me, “This is not normal. This is not normal.” I finally believed it.
The story doesn’t end there and involved him cutting his body with a kitchen knife and begging for my forgiveness, me leaving the state, him following me, the new company I was working for threatening to get a restraining order against him to keep him away from me. He eventually heard from the police in the new town where I lived that they would arrest him if they heard from me again. He left town. I later heard he was jailed for beating up another girlfriend in another state.
I’m not exactly sure how I got from watching a movie with an intensely damaged female protagonist who exacted revenge on her abuser (and also on someone who was about to kill the person she loved) to talking about my own experience with abuse. I hold no animosity toward my abuser and have never had thoughts of revenge against him. I feel sorry for him. But I’m glad I got away from him.
It has taken many years to get to the point where I can say:
I am strong;
I will not compromise who I am to be with a man;
I will not tolerate abuse of any kind.
These mantras go for both my personal and my professional lives. And I finally have really great relationships in both my personal and professional lives. I learned tough lessons the hard way, and I have the echoes of bruises and the internal scars to prove it.
How have you dealt with anger against someone who has hurt you in some way? How do you feel about revenge?
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