Initially flattered, Sarah gradually grew uneasy with Joe’s possessiveness.
“He never really straight out said he didn’t like my friends, but he made it clear I didn’t need anyone else.
One day in January 2005, Joe arrived at school drunk and threw Sarah against a locker.
“He started shaking me,” she says, “yelling that I would never be able to hide from him.
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.
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.
Joe got a two-day suspension from school, the school confirms, for drinking.
I flew across the room, hit my head on the wall and was knocked unconscious.” No one called an ambulance. Her legs were moving up and down and her chest was shaking.
“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.