They often say that the college years will be the best years of your life. For Yeardley Love, it seemed to be going that way. The Baltimore native had achieved her childhood dream of playing for the University of Virginia women’s lacrosse team while pursuing a major in government and a minor in Spanish. She was tenacious, a force of nature on the lacrosse field, endeavoring to put forth her best effort for the good of the team. Off the field, her spirit was equally radiant, inspiring love and laughter in everyone she met. Her mother, Sharon Love, perhaps put it best when she said, “To know Yeardley was to love her.”
But then everything changed. Only 22 years old and weeks from graduation, Yeardley was found dead in her apartment on May 3, 2010. It was not long until the authorities learned that her former boyfriend, George Huguely, was to blame. Huguely had a history of violent tendencies and brushes with the law and there were subtle signs to indicate that his relationship with Yeardley may have strayed into the same vein. While they were still dating, Huguely attacked a teammate who had been seen hanging out with Yeardley. After breaking up, Huguely sent threatening emails to her.
Yeardley’s death was tragic, the end of a life that was just beginning. But her family sought to make it mean something. To use this calamity to do good, true to Yeardley’s compassionate nature. In September of 2010, the Love family established the One Love Foundation. The organization aims to honor Yeardley’s memory by shedding light on relationship violence. Statistics show 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience relationship violence in their lifetime.
To take a stand for Yeardley, as well as the average 288,820 people a year who experience sexual violence, Arcadia’s Women’s Lacrosse Team held an event to raise awareness for sexual assault. Throughout Arcadia University’s campus, students of all genders, races, and social circles sported white T-shirts, emblazoned with the school’s knight mascot and the bold proclamation, “It’s On Us,” the mantra of a sexual violence-awareness campaign launched by President Obama in September 2014. The thousand dollars earned from sales of the shirts was donated to Yeardley’s One Love Foundation.
Later on, female Arcadia students convened in the aerobics room of the athletic center. They stood, braced in a powerful stance, one foot slightly in front of the other, fists raised and ready to strike. “No!” they roared together as one voice, the sound resonating against the mirrored walls. Through a workshop provided by the Director of Public Safety, students were able to learn basic self defense techniques, from getting out of chokeholds to hand grips, that would aid them should they find themselves in an unfavorable encounter.
Perhaps the most poignant event of the day was when the entire body of Arcadia’s student athletes gathered together to watch a video from the One Love Foundation, which detailed the deterioration of a college romance into violence. The material was startling, brutal, and seemed better befitting of fiction. Considering Yeardley’s tragic end, it is all the more chilling. Following the film, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee led groups of student athletes through a series of questions provided by the One Love Foundation. The topics ranged from the warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship to what someone should do if someone they know might be in such a relationship.
College is a time of rich possibility. Here you are able to explore opportunities never before available. Discover new passions. Hone your skills. Cultivate friendships that last a lifetime. Begin to shape the person you wish to be. Despite these opportunities, it can be easy to overlook the blights that taint an otherwise exciting and enlightening experience. Therefore, it is important to stay vigilant and acknowledge that there are problems that we must aim to fix. Creating a dialogue, no matter how difficult, is essential to ending relationship violence. To endeavor to create community where everyone can relish in all the agency college has to offer without any fear. To give voice to those who have felt silenced in the face of their great misfortune. To construct a society where people like Yeardley may have gotten the early intervention she needed. It is a difficult undertaking, not one to be achieved overnight. And when it comes to sexual assault and relationship violence, It’s on Us to take a stand and fight it together. Lives depend on it.