It’s not always easy to see abuse in your own relationships or those of friends. Red flags of abuse aren’t always so noticeable, but they can be hints to a much larger problem. As you read through this story, see if you can spot the 7 red flags in Sara's relationship with Daniel. When you get the end of the story, click on the link and see if you found them all. If you see some that we haven’t pointed out, feel free to let us know!
When Sara heard that Daniel had asked for her AIM screen name, she was thrilled.
“He called last night to ask me for it,” Sara’s friend Amanda told her during English class. “Daniel was really impressed after he met you at that youth group convention last weekend. He thinks you’re cute, and he was excited to meet a girl who is as involved with track as he is.”
Sara thought to herself that this must be a match made in heaven. It seemed like by this time in the beginning of junior year, nearly everyone had been in at least one relationship so far. No boy who ever interested Sara had asked her out before. Sara admitted that she had high standards – she was interested in athletic boys who would understand her passion for running, and her parents wanted her to date someone Jewish.
All the next week Sara looked forward to her date with Daniel after they had arranged a trip to the zoo during an online conversation. Her friends were excited for her, and Amanda kept telling Sara how cute it was that Daniel wanted to go to the zoo for their first date.
Daniel exceeded Sara’s expectations as they walked through the zoo together. She finally felt as if she’d found a boy who could relate to her – Daniel, from an observant Jewish family, had struggled just as Sara had when he decided to compete in track meets on Saturdays.
“I felt that competing at that level and being on those relay teams were opportunities I couldn’t give up,” Daniel said.
Sara felt that Daniel was an opportunity that she couldn’t give up, despite her busy schedule.
“He is cute,” Sara’s mom said tepidly after Daniel had been over for Shabbat dinner. “But he seems a little opinionated about how you should be training for track.”
“Moomm,” Sara said with exasperation. “You met him for two hours. You were gone on a business trip for two weeks; you don’t even keep up with what goes on in my life, and I don’t appreciate you judging my friends or my boyfriend!”
Somehow, hearing her mother’s disapproval only made Sara more convinced to make this the perfect relationship.
Several months later, Amanda approached Sara.
“I’m upset that I never see you anymore,” Amanda said. “I understand that you’re super busy, but we used to make time to get together. Now you’re with Daniel all of the time, and I know you two are happy together, but I would like to hang out sometime.”
“I’m sorry,” Sara apologized. “I wish that I could see you more often, but I’m so stressed out making time for all of my obligations. And Daniel wants to see me during the free time that I have. Maybe over the summer we’ll be able to hang out a bit.”
“Well I understand that you’re excited about this relationship, but I’ve been your friend since kindergarten. I’m just a little hurt that you seem to be giving up on our friendship.”
In truth, Sara wasn’t sure whether she should be spending all her free time with Daniel. She wondered whether his constant demands for her attention made her more stressed out. And besides, it seemed as if he really needed her – Dan was always saying that he simply couldn’t concentrate on his school work or on track if he didn’t know what Sara was doing.
She brought up her concerns with Daniel as they spoke on the phone that night and was surprised by how upset he became.
“I can’t believe you think I am too demanding!” Daniel said. “What else are you doing that is so important? You spend all of your time at track practice, but it isn’t as if you’re a great runner. Did your coach even select you to run at the regional meet?”
Sara was speechless for a moment and then tried to respond.
“This isn’t about my abilities as a runner,” she managed to say before Daniel cut her off.
“Then is it about how I’m not a good enough boyfriend? You are the one who constantly makes up problems in our relationship, who can’t seem to stop complaining, and who isn’t willing to make time to see me.”
Abruptly, before Sara could say anything else, Daniel hung up the phone. Sara quietly sat in her room, holding her cell phone while momentarily paralyzed. She wanted to simply turn off the phone, but she was afraid that Daniel would be upset if he tried to call back and she were unavailable. Sometimes he called her phone compulsively if she had left it on but wasn’t near it.
Sara slowly dialed Amanda’s number, but her friend didn’t pick up.
“Hi Amanda,” Sara said after the beep of the voice mail. “I just had a small argument with Dan, and I kind of wanted to talk to you…so give me a call when you get this. Talk to you later.”
Before Amanda could call back, her phone rang and Daniel’s number appeared on the caller ID.
“I’m sorry, babe; that was uncalled for,” he said. “I have been really stressed out, and I just feel like you’re the only person I can turn to. It scares me to think that you don’t want to see me anymore.”
“That’s not what I said,” Sara replied.
“I know, but I’m don’t want it to go in that direction. Let’s make a date for dinner tomorrow night, and we can just relax and have fun.”
“Okay,” Sara said, remembering how much fun she used to have with Daniel when they started going out.
She was slightly embarrassed when Amanda approached her the next day at school.
“I’m sorry that I never called you back,” Amanda said. “I was out to dinner with my parents, and it was late by the time we came home.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sara said. “I guess that I was getting worked up over nothing – Dan called to apologize right after I left that message, and I guess that we both overreacted.”
"Well you sounded upset on the phone,” Amanda said. “If everything isn’t okay, you can let me know. Or maybe talk to Marcy. You’re close to her, and she doesn’t even know Daniel.”
“Thanks for your support. But you know what? I think that I’ll just bring Daniel to Jake’s party next weekend. That way, I’ll get to see both him and my friends from school. And hopefully we’ll get to have a fun time together.”
A few days before Jake’s party, Daniel called Sara with an invitation. He wanted to know if she would like to go shopping with him for some clothes, and while Sara was surprised that her boyfriend was expressing interest in a trip to the mall, she was hoping that the trip might provide some time for the two of them to relax together.
Daniel graciously offered to buy some clothes for Sara, since he hadn’t really gotten her a real present for her birthday several weeks ago.
“Dan, that’s so sweet of you!” she kept saying, although she hadn’t realized how questionable her boyfriend’s taste in clothing was. Whenever Sara pointed out a cute shirt or a skirt that wasn’t too expensive, Daniel said he thought it looked cheap or slutty.
“What about those pants over there?” he asked, pointing to some grey linen slacks.
“C’mon, they look so frumpy!” Sara said playfully, but she gave in and let Daniel buy her the pants. After all, they were his present for her.
When the shopping trip was over, Sara had a pair of pants and two shirts that she was not at all excited to wear. Part of Sara wanted to just return the clothes, but she did not want to get into another argument with Daniel.
Deep down, Sara had realized that her relationship with Daniel was not healthy, but she was reluctant to tell her friends or even her parents about her problems. She knew that part of it was stubbornness – she couldn’t admit to her mom that the initial feelings of doubt her mother had were actually valid. She convinced herself that bringing Dan to the party would be great; they would have a good time and just forget about all of the arguments they’d been having.
Daniel was at her house at 9:00 to pick Sara up. When they got to Jake’s, Daniel seemed to be getting along fine with Sara’s friends.
“I’m so glad to finally meet you,” Marcy said. “Sara talks about you so much, but we somehow never met.”
“Well I hope she is saying good things,” Daniel seemed to laugh. “Because I think she’s talking about me more than she is seeing me! With all her activities, I hardly get to spend time with Sara.”
“Dan!” Sara chided gently. “You know that all I’ve been doing is running and school work.”
“You know what?” he sounded indignant. “You spend all that time at practice, and you still aren’t that great.” Daniel turned to Jake and Marcy. “Can you believe that for all the hours Sara puts into her running, she still didn’t make the cut for the state meet?”
Humiliated, Sara didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t start a fight with Daniel here in the middle of all these people. But he kept going.
“Sometimes I even ask myself how I ended up with someone so dense. You might think that because you have a nice athletic body, you’re a good girlfriend, but honestly, between your complaining and your cluelessness, I don’t know why I put up with you.”
Sara’s friends were in shock. Sara herself realized that she had tears streaming down her cheeks, and she ran out to the car. Daniel ran after her and grabbed her wrist.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he said under his breath as he tightened his grip on her arm. “I’m the one with the car keys.”
Sara didn’t know what to say. She was silent as Daniel hit her and then watched as he got into the car without her and drove off. She walked back into the house, and somehow ended up in the bathroom, crying with Amanda and Marcy.
“I feel so ashamed,” Sara sobbed. “He ruined Jake’s party.”
“Sara!” Marcy said. “This isn’t your fault! Has Daniel ever done this before?”
“Well, he’s gotten mad at me, but not in public,” Sara said.
“There is no excuse for his behavior,” Amanda said. “You can’t just let him apologize and then go back to him as if nothing happened. You know, maybe you should just talk to Amy at USY about this. After all, she knows both of you since she is his youth advisor.”
“And we’re both here if you want to talk to either of us,” Marcy added.
Did you catch the red flags of abuse? Find out!
What do you do now if you are Sara?
What do you do if you are Marcy or Amy?