On May 3rd, 2010 my daughter, Yeardley Love, was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend just three weeks before their graduation from the University of Virginia. I’ve said these words countless times in the years since as I tell our story, yet they still seem as impossible and unimaginable as they did that day.
When the police officers came to my door that morning, I had never had a worry about relationship abuse– it just wasn’t on my radar screen. My biggest concern for Yeardley had always been that she would be injured on the lacrosse field or, even worse, be hurt in a car accident. To hear that someone she had cared for had hurt her – let alone killed her – was and still is beyond my comprehension. I didn’t know then what I know now – that relationship abuse is a public health epidemic and that young women in Yeardley’s age group are at a 3X greater risk for being in an abusive relationship than any other demographic. But when the police came to the door that morning, we had no idea of those stats and we had no idea that Yeardley had been at risk.I didn’t know then what I know now – that relationship abuse is a public health epidemic and that young women in Yeardley’s age group are at a 3X greater risk for being in an abusive relationship than any other demographic. Click To Tweet
The next days and weeks are hard to remember and yet still vivid in my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about Yeardley and how this couldn’t possibly have happened to her. To know Yeardley was to love her; she was happy, kind, humble and hardworking, not to mention incredibly funny and a truly enthusiastic participant in life. She saw the best in everyone, and was always there to give a helping hand. She had achieved her dream of playing lacrosse at the University of Virginia – a promise she had made to her father before he died of cancer in 2003. At UVA, she majored in government and minored in Spanish, was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, and built wonderful friendships with people who would have been lifelong friends. She was about to set out to New York City after graduation to start her first job. The entire world was in front of her, and then – all of a sudden – it wasn’t.
My daughter, Lexie, and I started the One Love Foundation to honor Yeardley’s memory. We did not want the bookend on her life to be the horrible way it ended, and we were determined to help others avoid the devastating loss that we had endured. We thought about Mothers Against Drunk Driving and aspired to tackle prevention in much the same way: by educating young people and starting a conversation about an incredibly prevalent issue that too often goes undiscussed. We believe that if anyone in Yeardley’s life had understood the signs of an unhealthy and increasingly dangerous, abusive relationship, steps could have been taken to save her life.
So today we are educating young people, and communities about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors; empowering people to trust their gut and act when they feel that something is off. In teaching these signs and starting this conversation with young people, we know we are changing and yes, saving, lives. While it is distressing to hear about how real this issue is in young people’s lives, we also hear every day from people who have gotten out of dangerous relationships because of our work. We are inspired by the young people who step forward to be leaders in educating and rallying their communities to be empowered around this issue. While there is no magic bullet that can bring Yeardley back or somehow change the pain we feel from her loss, One Love and the energy of so many amazing young people who are driving this movement keeps Yeardley alive in such a positive way.