Rae Anne told her mom about the incident. At this point, Elaine said she tried to persuade her daughter to end her relationship with Marcus. "I tried to pound it in her head that this boy was no good for her. I mean, if he was going to push her down stairs, what else was he doing that I didn't know about?" she said.
There was a lot she didn't know. One time, Rae Anne says Marcus bit her cheek. On another occasion, she says, he set her backpack on fire. Rae Anne says other students saw the violence but blamed her for the trouble, not the star athlete.
Despite feeling isolated and alone, Rae Anne somehow found a moment of confidence and broke up with Marcus.
Murray says ending a relationship doesn't mean the danger of abuse is gone. "The most vulnerable time for a girl in a domestic violence situation is when she leaves, because they've taken their power and control back. And an abuser who doesn't have power and control is very frightened," she said.
Just days after they split up, Rae Anne says Marcus wrote a heartfelt letter to her, begging for another chance.
"He just apologized and said he'd never do it again," Rae Anne said. She gave him another chance, she said, hoping the relationship would get better.
But as in most cases of teen dating violence, it didn't get better. Marcus even said he'd commit suicide if she left him, Rae Anne said.
The breaking point came one day in drama class. Rae Anne says Marcus violently smacked her with a notebook "as hard as he could."
"My ear was ringing and then he didn't stop. ... So I got up and I slapped him back," she said. "And that was like the worst mistake I could have done, because he put me in a head lock and he continued to punch me until the teacher stopped him."
By now, Rae Anne's mother was beyond exasperation. After the incident, the school suspended both Marcus and Rae Anne. But in response to the escalating violence, Rae Anne's mother says she felt that the school essentially did nothing to help her daughter. So she took a drastic but, she felt, necessary step: She moved her family across town to a new school district. She says felt it was the only way to get her daughter away from Marcus.
Despite the physical abuse, Rae Anne says she wasn't able to end her relationship with Marcus. "Because I loved him. … I just felt like he needed me," she said.
Rae Anne said she was concerned for Marcus, and worried "that he'd hurt himself or somebody else."
By the fall of 2002, Rae Anne had escaped her rocky relationship with Marcus. The popular football star was now a sophomore, and it didn't take long for him to move on to a new girl at school. This time he found someone just as popular as himself, an outgoing 15-year-old sophomore -- a beautiful, bright dancer named Ortralla Mosley.
Her mother, Carolyn Mosley, remembers the first time she met Marcus. He made a good impression. "He was a very good young man. He had his life organized to where he thought he was on the right road. I really thought they would make a very, very, very good couple," she said.
But just as he had with Rae Anne, Marcus soon began to control Ortralla's life and by the spring of 2003, Ortralla's mother said her daughter had had enough and was trying to break up with him.