Vanderbilt Law Review


Devon M. Largio

First Page



Many young people date in high school, and Lisa Santoro was no exception.' Her father Tom tells her story:

In January, 1994, Lisa started to date a guy [named "Dan"].... In the five months Lisa dated this guy, I never really understood why she was attracted to him.... Around June, when Lisa started to work at the swimming pool, she met another guy who was in charge of the pool .... Shortly after, Lisa [broke] up with Dan. Dan tried to get Lisa to go back to him, but Lisa had her mind made up.... On July 27th, Dan called Lisa and asked her to go out to exchange letters they had written to each other when they were dating. Lisa agreed to meet Dan on the 28th.... About 1 a.m. that evening, I got a call from my wife. Lisa wasn't home and she was supposed to be home at midnight. I came home from the firehouse, tried calling the house where Lisa was supposed to be, and got a satanic recording. I told my wife that I was going to take a ride to the house to look for Lisa. When I got to the house, I saw the police car and the ambulance in front. I knew my Lisa was dead.

That night, Lisa's ex-boyfriend beat her to death with a baseball bat. Unfortunately, Lisa is not alone in suffering a violent-and in her case, deadly-fate from dating abuse.

But not all high school dating violence escalates to the same brutal heights. Battered victims often escape from violent relationships in time. One high school survivor anonymously submitted her story, in her own words, to a local newspaper: I don't remember what I told him that made him so mad that he did what he did. I spoke to him. He got mad and stood up. He got off his chair and yanked me out of my seat. He lifted me up and sat me on his lap. His hands were covering my face and I couldn't breathe because he was squeezing me so hard. I could not see.... Then he started to watch me more closely at school. He also had his friends watching me .... He would hit me sometimes, but not so hard that I would get bruises or any open cuts.

Another girl, "Cheryl," fell in love at the age of fifteen, after her new boyfriend showered her with affection.6 Eventually, her boyfriend grew more aggressive, forbidding her from seeing friends and hiding her keys so she could not leave; the abuse culminated in an altercation during which Cheryl was left bloodied and crying, her head having been slammed into a towel rack.

Sometimes victims suffer from verbal and emotional abuse. One teenager made his girlfriend "sleep with the phone on her pillow, just so he could hear her breathing and know she wasn't out with other guys." Another teen stalked his ex-girlfriend, leaving his name in the dust on her car so she knew that he was watching her every move.