Slain U.Va. student’s mom discusses date violence

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — When police officers knocked on the door of Sharon Love’s Cockeysville, Maryland, home the morning her youngest daughter was found slain, Love thought neighbors must have complained about the family dog barking.

It was 6 a.m. The dog was asleep.

About 170 miles away in Charlottesville, authorities examining the 14th Street apartment where Yeardley Love, 22, was bludgeoned to death were homing in on her ex-boyfriend, fellow University of Virginia fourth-year George Wesley Huguely V.

In those first moments of learning of her daughter’s death, Love told a crowd of about 600 Albemarle County students on Oct. 6 at Jack Jouett Middle School, she tried to rationalize the unthinkable. Then everything went blank.

“It didn’t even occur to me (as something to worry about),” Love said, of dating violence. “It was like going to the moon — something I never thought about.”

Hands rushed to cover mouths and jaws dropped when Love explained what Huguely had done to her daughter. He is serving out his 23-year term at River North Correctional Center in Grayson County.

“This topic has basically been pushed under the rug forever,” Love said. “I want students to recognize the signs and stand up for one another.”

Love had never discussed dating violence with students that young, she said. The One Love Foundation she formed to prevent relationship violence targets young adults between the ages of 16 and 24.

One of Yeardley Love’s former lacrosse coaches at UVa, Heather Dow, teaches eighth grade civics at Jouett and invited Sharon Love to the school.

“The sooner we start educating them, the better,” Dow said. “The students are seeing things at a younger and younger age.”

About one in three adolescents and young adults will experience some form of dating violence, Love said.

When Yeardley left for college, Love said, she worried about her daughter suffering a sports injury or getting in a car crash. The two never discussed dating violence, she said.

Yeardley Love settled on UVa at age 10 after visiting grounds when her older sister attended a lacrosse camp at the school. After that, everything was blue and orange, and she pounded dents into the family’s garage door practicing her lacrosse skills.

Weeks away from graduation when she died, Yeardley was planning to spend a year in New York before beginning law school, Sharon Love said.

Now Love spends her time explaining the signs of dating violence to young men and women in hopes that educating others about her daughter’s experience might spare another mother pain.

“Ignoring the painful realities of abuse does not make it go away,” she said. “There is no excuse for abusive behavior.”

The message Love is promoting piggybacks on bullying prevention training that children already are receiving in schools, said Lea Calvani, a child advocate with the Shelter for Help and Emergency in Charlottesville.

“Schools have worked for years to promote a bystander intervention approach that encourages kids to stand up for one another,” Calvani said. “It’s almost like creating a bridge to help them understand that what’s true for bullying is also true for dating violence.”

Students sometimes are reluctant to intervene for fear of being labeled a snitch or tattletale, said Marquan Jones, 14, an eighth grader at Jouett.

“That’s not me, though,” Jones said. “I stand up for people.”

More information about dating violence and the One Love Foundation is available from www.joinonelove.org .

 

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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