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Mother of Yeardley Love urges students not to ignore signs of abusive relationships

Looking back, almost four years to the day Yeardley Love’s former boyfriend killed her at the University of Virginia, it is clear to Sharon Love that her daughter was in an abusive relationship.

Although she wishes that she had done more at the time, the former Baltimore schoolteacher is doing what she can now: She is waging a campaign against domestic violence, hoping to save others from her daughter’s fate.

“I only wish I knew how dangerous or fatal her relationship would become,” Love said. She founded the One Love Foundation in honor of her daughter and is encouraging people to address potentially violent relationships before it’s too late.

On Tuesday, Love spoke to juniors and seniors at McLean High School about her daughter’s rocky relationship with a charismatic and handsome college athlete. For most of the discussion, Sharon Love did not utter his name: George Huguely V.

The couple had dated throughout college, where Yeardley Love was a senior and played lacrosse. The game is what the girl with the sky-blue eyes had in common with Huguely, who grew up in Bethesda and attended the Landon School. On May 3, 2010, she was found dead in her own bed, facedown on a blood-soaked pillow.

Yeardley Love, in an undated photograph from the University of Virginia, was killed in May 2010. Her mother, Sharon Love, has started a campaign against domestic violence. (AP)

“Less than three weeks before graduation, my daughter, Yeardley Reynolds Love, was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend,” Love said. “He kicked in her door while she was asleep and killed her. Life as we knew it changed.”

Love told the students that one in three women is affected by an abusive relationship and said that studies show that each year there are 1,200 deaths in the United States linked to domestic violence. Love said many young women don’t realize they are in unhealthy relationships, minimizing bad behavior or blaming abuse on drugs or alcohol. In many cases, Love said, perpetrators can appear loving and warm in public yet, when others aren’t looking, are brutal.

Huguely, Love said, was on his best behavior in front of her. But there were hints of aggression.

Love said in an interview that Huguely once grabbed her daughter aggressively at a party early in their relationship.

“She didn’t want me to make a big deal out of it,” Love said. “If only I had known what he was capable of. I had no idea.”

Kiersten Gillis, a senior at McLean, said that Love’s presentation helped her learn more about the prevalence of abusive relationships.

“It really affected the way I think, because I’ve been through something like this before,” said Gillis, 18. “If you wait too long to address the issue, it can be too late to look for the signs.”

Love also told the students about a new mobile phone app from the One Love Foundation that helps teens and young adults complete a danger assessment of their own relationships.

“I’m here today because I want to take this issue from under a rock and show the community what this is: a rampant problem in our society,” Love said.

Huguely, 26, is in prison at the River North Correctional Center in southwestern Virginia, where he is serving a 23-year sentence for second-degree murder.

Love has not spoken to Huguely since the murder, and she’s not sure if she would.

“I’m not eaten up by hatred,” Love said. “But I don’t know what’s in George’s head. I’ve tried not to think about him one way or the other.”

Love said college administrations across the country could do more to help victims of abuse.

“During Yeardley’s years there, we saw all of the things about U-Va. that make it an idyllic setting,” Love said. “But I think when something bad happens, you get to the underside. And it’s distressing.”

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.



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