Mother of slain Yeardley Love speaks at domestic violence symposium

The mother of slain Yeardley Love earned a standing ovation at a domestic abuse symposium Wednesday, Dec. 5.

"On May 3, 2010, my life was changed forever when my daughter was beaten to death," Sharon Love told an audience of 260 — many of them students at area high schools, including Yeardley Love's high school, Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson.

Yeardley Love, a star lacrosse player at Notre Dame Prep, was attending the University of Virginia at the time of her death. A fellow UVA student George Huguely was convicted in her murder.

Sharon Love and another daughter, Lexie, have since founded the One Love Foundation, to honor Yeardley Love's memory and to "promote strength of character, service, kindness, humility and sportsmanship."

But part of the foundation's goal is also to "prevent (Yeardley Love's death) from happening to anyone else," Sharon Love said. "Since relationship violence has affected our family, we have learned so much about it and committed ourselves to spreading awareness."

The University of Maryland, Baltimore's School of Social Work downtown sponsored the third annual symposium. Area high schools brought students to hear the talks included Gilman, Bryn Mawr, Roland Park Country, Notre Dame Prep and McDonogh School.

Sharon Love's talk followed a speaker with an equally tragic story.

Keynote speaker Leslie Morgan Steiner, whose harrowing account of spousal abuse survival earned a standing ovation, Love went to the podium and stumbled nervously over her own speech.

"I'm not good at this, so I try to avoid it," Love said, giggling.

But the audience applauded Love's "call to action" to help combat relationship violence.

Steiner is the author of "Crazy Love," a bestselling memoir about her surviving abuse in her first marriage. She said her husband, who told her that his stepfather beat him as a child, repeatedly abused her for four years, but that she stayed because, "I thought I was a very strong woman in love with a troubled man and I was the only one who could help him face his demons."

When he refused to accompany her on a planned vacation to Paris and she told him she was going without him, he beat her unconscious. After that, she filed for divorce and told friends she'd been abused.

Students and faculty members said the symposium was important.

"I don't think the kids realize it's an issue," said Marie Allee, a clinical psychologist and teacher, who brought 13 students from her Advanced Placement Psychology class at McDonogh School. She said she doesn't want students to be "bystanders" later in life if they see domestic violence.

"I want them to be aware of the (rationalizations) that stop intervention," such as worrying it's none of their business to get involved, or rationalizing that victims chose to be in the relationship or that abusers only do it when they're drunk."

Several students at area schools said they have seen no evidence of domestic violence on their campuses.

But Roland Park Country School 10th-grader Anna Cox, of Towson, said, "It's not something people talk about a lot."

"It's something we don't really hear that often," said Gilman 11th-grader Omar Khatib, of Timonium.

"In many ways, school isn't the real world," said McDonogh senior Booker Smith, of Guilford.

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