“They would say things like, ‘I know you are at practice right now, but I just wanted to be the first one to say hi,'” Sarah says.
Initially flattered, Sarah gradually grew uneasy with Joe’s possessiveness.
“It became kind of a joke—that she was too busy with school and crew.” Sarah kept her doubts to herself. “I think it has to do with being in one of the first relationships of your life. It made me feel loved.” But her parents, Kate and Mark, a computer software salesman, were worried.
Quickly, though, sweet talk gave way to insults and demands and, finally, physical abuse. 12, 2005, kicking incident, Sarah, a willowy strawberry blonde with a spray of freckles across her cheeks, stood in line at the family division of the Santa Clara County, Calif., court clerk’s office, waiting to pick up a copy of a restraining order.
“I never would have thought,” Sarah says now, “something like this would happen to me.” Once a hidden problem, teen dating violence is getting some serious attention.
“This is a major adolescent health issue,” says Jay Silverman, associate professor of society, human development and health, who directed the Harvard study.
“It affects [girls’] academic lives, lowers their standards for relationships and puts them at great risk for unintended pregnancy and STDs.” No one knows what causes such behavior—theories range from violence in the home to alcohol and drug abuse; others suggest violence in movies and the Internet may play a role.