Nearly two and a half years after University of Virginia senior Yeardley Love was murdered in her off-campus apartment by her former boyfriend, her mother and sister are speaking out in support of efforts to raise young women’s awareness of relationship violence.
Appearing on the Katie Couric show Thursday afternoon, Sharon Love and her daughter Lexie Love explained that they had not been aware that Yeardley’s former boyfriend, George Huguely, posed a threat to her. They also said they got the impression that Yeardley didn’t think her relationship with Huguely involved anything she couldn’t handle.
That’s a common situation, according to Jacquelyn Campbell, a registered nurse and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, who has long researched domestic and relationship violence, with a particular interest in cases ending in homicide.
Campbell is working with the One Love Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by the Loves to honor Yeardley’s memory, on a campaign called “Be 1 for Change.” Among the campaign’s initiatives is a new smart-phone app called One Love Danger Assessment, designed primarily for women ages 16 to 26.
After a brief set of screening questions that help determine whether the user is in a potentially abusive relationship, the app poses a set of 20 questions, including “Is he an alcoholic or problem drinker?,” and “Does he ever try to choke you?” to pin down just how dangerous the relationship is.
Women who use the app and get a high score — indicating a high degree of danger — are urged to seek immediate professional help and are offered a list of phone numbers and other resources. When the Danger Assessment app identifies a “high-danger situation, the language gets more aggressive,” Campbell says. “We want to avoid having women think they can deal with this themselves” or just have a friend or family member intervene. “We want them to call the police and get into a safe situation immediately.”
Along with the app, the campaign offers a chilling public service announcement in which a young couple is engaged in an increasingly violent encounter, with the male becoming physically aggressive and the woman unable to defend herself. Bystanders watch in silence, their reasons for not intervening superimposed on the screen. “It only happens when he’s drunk,” “It’s none of my business” and “There’s really nothing I can do.” According to the PSA, one in three women will experience relationship violence at some time in her life; Campbell confirms that statistic.
Campbell, who says she and Johns Hopkins colleagues developed the app based on her 30 years of research into relationship violence, says, “The number one risk factor” for being killed by a partner is that partner’s “prior domestic violence against the woman.”
“If I want to prevent those murders, I have to get to those women,” Campbell says. That means understanding the ways in which women tend to respond to abusive relationships. “Our normal tendency is to minimize the bad things that are happening to us so we can go on day to day. You don’t want to dwell on the idea that you’re living with a dangerous person, even if the thought has crossed your mind.”