Causes of dating violence

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“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.

A 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that of 6,888 high school girls surveyed nationally, 1 in 11 had been hit, slapped or punched by an intimate partner.

He sent me instant message after instant message.” Sarah printed and kept some of the dozens which were sent minutes apart: “i never wanted to scare u,” he wrote in one; another said, “i would never hurt you and i hope u dont honestly think I would.” A few days later Joe surprised Sarah while she was jogging, presenting another bouquet of roses. (PEOPLE’s multiple calls to Joe and his family were not returned.) Just before Valentine’s Day, 2005, Sarah met Joe at a party.

By the time she arrived with a girlfriend, she says, Joe was drunk.

“As a parent you don’t know what to do,” says Kate, a workspace designer.

“Here was this child who had always been bright; suddenly she doesn’t have the self-esteem to care about herself, her grades or her future.” She tried talking to Sarah, who angrily rejected her suggestion that Joe was a bad influence; she also sent Sarah to a therapist, who suggested Kate and Mark try to understand why they disapproved of their daughter’s choices.

’ 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.

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“I came and asked [Joe] to leave; then I gave her a ride home.” Even then Joe followed Sarah out, begging for forgiveness, but she ignored him.“I just wanted to get away.” Just four months earlier, Sarah thought she’d found the perfect boyfriend, ready with corsages, compliments and movie dates.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.They were at a party, and Joe (not his real name), the cute football player she’d been dating, had kicked her, hard, propelling her into a wall, where she had hit her head and blacked out.“I woke up and he was hovering over me,” Sarah, now 18, recalls.

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