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'” When she did find time for pals, there was hell to pay: “My phone would ring and my friends would say, ‘Why don’t you ignore it?
’ And I would say, ‘I can’t ignore it—I’ll get in trouble.’ If I was hanging around with anyone else, he’d get mad and yell at me on the phone.” Her friends knew only that something had changed.
“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.
“He started shaking me,” she says, “yelling that I would never be able to hide from him.
He told me he was going to beat the s— out of me.” Terrified and sobbing, Sarah escaped into a classroom and sought help from a teacher.
“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.
“He never really straight out said he didn’t like my friends, but he made it clear I didn’t need anyone else.
If a friend called, he’d be like, ‘Why do you want to go out with them?
What is clear: Boy abusers and girl victims, without help, are likely to repeat those roles as adults. Every afternoon she would sit on the front lawn of her house in a suburb of Palo Alto, Calif., hoping to catch a moment with Joe as he walked home from practice.
Getting hurt was the furthest thing from Sarah’s mind when she met Joe at a back-to-school dance in September 2004, the start of her sophomore year. “I was crazy about him and about being in a new fun relationship,” she says. Joe, knowing Sarah left before dawn for crew practice—she eventually became team captain—began sending her text messages at 4 a.m.
The film depicts the fictional story of teenager Natalie Rivera, who becomes a victim of dating violence.