I shared my story about my relationship with Bray on DD last year for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Here is a closer look.
Only once in my entire relationship with Bray was I asked about abuse. We were walking through shops and along the shoreline in Konstanz, Germany. I noticed an older woman following us from shop to shop, checking out the same restaurant menus as we did. Konstanz isn’t a big place, so it wasn’t hard for me to know she was there. Bray didn’t notice, or didn’t care.
He went up to the bar at lunch, and she approached me. She spoke slowly and carefully and kept her voice low.
You don’t have to tell him what I say, she started.
He didn’t bother learning any German in preparation of our trip, and he wasn’t keen to pick up much beyond how to order beer. I had spent the afternoon, like most days, translating for him. She spoke to me in very simple terms so that my elementary German skills wouldn’t be strained.
I saw him holding your arm. It is not good. I heard him speak to you. It is not good. If you would like, I could help you.
I’m okay, I explained. It’s not a problem; she just misunderstood the situation.
I could help you, she repeated.
Tears formed in my eyes. He’s only pushed me once. He said he was sorry; he thought I was leaving him, you see. I didn’t know why I was even telling her these things, but I had to make her understand something I didn’t even understand. I’m okay. I’m okay.
Bray came back, asking who she was and what she wanted. I told him she was just a confused old lady. She locked eyes with me then turned and walked away. I didn’t even think about following her. I thought about all the reasons why I couldn’t. I was in a foreign country with only a basic understanding of the language. We still had almost a month left on our study. If I left, I wouldn’t get credit for the courses. We lived together back in the US. He wouldn’t do it again.
Her words stuck with me. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to shake them off. It was that night that I realized what our relationship had become. It was that night that I knew our relationship was over, though it would take four more months for me to end it. I would watch him solidify a drug addiction before I would call it quits. I would wake up in the night to being raped before I would make him leave. I would need stitches before I would pack his things. I would wish I knew how that woman in Germany knew me so well from only an hour spent eavesdropping before I would be free.