Awareness | Posted by Julie Z on 05/11/2010

Yeardley Love: Why Domestic Violence Is Serious

Yeardley Love

Yeardley Love

Many of you may have heard by now about the murder of Yeardley Love, a senior lacrosse player at the University of Virginia. Last Monday, Yeardley was found by one of her roommates in bed, face down and unresponsive. Police found blood on her pillow and reported that her face was bruised as a cause of ‘blunt-force trauma.’

George Huguely, also a senior at the University of Virginia, and Yeardley’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, was charged with killing Yeardley, and admitted to acting violently with her the night she died, stating that he “entered Ms. Love’s unlocked apartment early Monday, kicked his foot through her bedroom door and forced his way in. He then ‘shook Love, and her head repeatedly hit the wall'” (NY Times)

Of course, this is a tragedy. Yeardley Love was clearly a highly respected friend, student and athlete and no doubt a wonderful personal all around. She was also a victim of domestic violence.

I’m not going to claim to know more about this case and these people than I do. I’m not going to act like I’m sure Huguely murdered Love. I’m not going to go off about how Yeardley’s friends and family must have seen the warning signs in Huguley’s and Love’s relationship and how they were irresponsible and partially culpable for this murder – the nature of Huguley’s and Love’s relationship is at best foggy in these reports and I have no idea if her friends and family had a better read on it. But it’s Huguely’s own admission that he was abusive, at least physically abusive that prompts me to label this case as related to domestic violence.

I can say, though, that if friends and family did know about this violence they should have spoken out. So often we look at domestic violence as something far less serious than it is. Even if Yeardley’s murder was somehow not the result of domestic violence, there are thousands of women who have been murdered as the result of domestic violence- over 31,000 between 1976-1996 according to a 1998 survey by the U.S. Department of Justice.

I work with a teen dating violence awareness group here in the Cleveland area, and I’ve talked to countless teens who have either been in an abusive relationship or who have had a friend in an abusive relationship. I understand why the victims themselves have a hard time getting help (although it is vital that they do so), however I’ve never quite understood the reasons why their friends don’t get help, especially once they’re sure of the unhealthy nature of the relationship. When I ask them why they fail to act on behalf of their friends, the most common answer is, “Well I didn’t want her to get mad at me and lose her friendship.”

To which I would say maybe the loss of your friendship (which would likely be temporary, until she’s received help) is worth saving her life. And even if the case isn’t as drastic as impending homicide, even if it’s verbal abuse (which of COURSE is still serious and incredibly harmful), helping your friend at the expense of your friendship is the true indicator that you care, and the right thing to do.

So, teens out there, take note and learn from Yeardley’s death. After all, 1 out of every 5 female high school students reports (yeah, those are just the ones who actually report it) being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. Seriously, don’t let this happen to you OR your friends.

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  • ACW @ at 3:33 pm, May 11th, 2010

    “When I ask them why they fail to act on behalf of their friends, the most common answer is, ‘Well I didn’t want her to get mad at me and lose her friendship.'”
    I think it goes deeper than that. When the abused young woman distances herself from the well-meaning friend, it’s not just a matter of the friend being cut off; it’s a valid concern that the abused woman won’t have that lifeline when she is ready to admit being abused.
    Excellent post, and I agree with most of what you’ve said… I just don’t think confrontation and tough love is what every abused woman needs. When an abuser has been chipping away at a young (or any, really) woman’s self-esteem for a while, it takes more than one isolated conversation for her to see that she has options.
    I can see, in high school, how a friend could intervene by bringing the matter to the attention of administrators or parents… but what is the ideal course of action once a young woman goes off to college? The issue is complicated by the fact that many universities have their own in-house “police” force, separate from the city in which they’re located. If you call to report a crime, it is still possible for universities to sweep it under the rug, because not everyone is knowledgeable or persistent enough to make sure the reporting goes beyond the borders of campus.
    You kind of pointed out that those of us who are attuned to domestic violence might recognize the signs… but I think it’s entirely possible, with the lack of education and resources for domestic violence, that a good portion of folks just don’t know what to do for a friend… but would never admit it.

  • Helen R. @ at 8:21 pm, May 11th, 2010

    Yeardley’s death was particularly moving (not the right word, but I can’t find it right now) for me, because she was from Baltimore. I go to a private school in Baltimore- my best friend from middle school goes to NDP, the school she went to. My friend’s father almost married her mother way back in the day. And- I don’t know. It’s weird to think that even in this privileged little bubble Baltimore kids live in, we can still be so affected by trauma. What happened to Love was awful, disgusting.

    I sound awfully spoiled. But I hope you all get what I mean.

  • Erin @ at 8:46 pm, May 11th, 2010

    I was looking into this for E.R. and I thought it was a prime example to tell everyone about when you look at his temper and the articles about how they fought a lot in public. I was not the least bit surprised when everything said that they had been broken up when this happened. Just like we’ve always been taught, a lot of the worst abuse comes after the relationship has ended. One of Huguely’s summer league teammates said he obsessively called and texted Love to the point where her friends were worried about the relationship. I just wish more people knew about what to do in these situations because the way he treated her seemed to be somewhat known to her friends, if only they had been taught things to do in that situation…

  • Zelda @ at 4:13 am, May 12th, 2010

    I found this to be a very interesting an informing read. As to your comment about why friends do not help once discovering the nature of a an abusive relationship. I was once very good friends with a girl during my senior year of Highschool whose boyfriend frequently hit and raped her. Once when she was pregnant his violence caused her to loose her baby. I refused to stand by and watch this so I reported the events to the school counsellor. What followed was a living hell as this psycho directed his abuse onto me and my friends, threatening to beat us into submission, being verbally abusive and stalking us. We of course tried to stand up to him only to have my friend lie and deny all charges of abuse. The boy was suspended from school due to the threats and verbal abuse however he was never charged for beating and raping my friend.
    Ten years later they are still together and married with a child.

  • Things I love this week. « Kate Achille @ at 4:47 pm, May 20th, 2010

    […] of feminist zinesters? Editor Julie Z. and her crew raise serious questions about issues like domestic violence and pay homage to women artists on Sundays. I’m definitely not a teenager anymore and […]

  • Lindsay @ at 3:04 am, May 26th, 2010

    This is a major issue not only for teens but for 20-somethings and probably beyond. I WAS the friend who tried to step in, because my (former) friend is in a relationship with a guy who had also been a friend of mine once. I saw his angry outbursts in class when we went to school together, and much like Love’s ex, he is a very spoiled, entitled kid, although certainly not terribly popular like the young man in this case. Anyway, my friend confided in me that she was nervous he would eventually hit her, because he’s shaken many times and even chipped a tooth gritting his teeth at her. He has yelled at her and blamed her for all their problems, threatened to break up on the rare occasions she would try to hang out with friends, and of course she would always apologize. But my final red flag was when she told me “Things are going really well right now because I’m getting better at not saying things to make him mad.” I finally told her she needed to get out, both in person and by e-mail. But she sees this as her “fairy tale” that can’t be threatened, and so both she and he cut me off completely, but not before he left me a rage-filled five minute voicemail about how I was ruining their relationship. That was two years ago. Now they’re engaged, and even though I have no means of contacting her personally, I still worry. But the worst part is, nobody else has tried to step in, either because they don’t think it’s a big deal, or none of their business, or they don’t want to get cut off like I was. But people do need to step in ans stop these things from happening! Staying silent is passive approval!

  • Loren Riddle @ at 6:53 am, October 9th, 2010

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