Yeardley Love's mother speaks out against violence

There is Chris Brown, these days sporting a neck tattoo that looks like ex-girlfriend Rihanna after he bloodied and bruised her. And Charlie Sheen, whose assault of his wife is somehow just another part of his troubled yet comedic persona.

Sharon Love is just warming up on the issue of relationship violence. Normally soft-spoken, and by nature a sunny personality, Love grows outraged as the subject takes her from feckless celebrities to the anonymous victims sheltered by such groups as Baltimore's House of Ruth


"They're hiding from these men. They're the ones hiding, and these men are running free," she says. "Something's upside down. Things have to change."

She pauses, and adds quietly: "I have to make it unacceptable."


After maintaining a largely public silence about the murder of her daughter, Love is emerging as a vocal advocate against partner violence.

It has been nearly 21/2 years since police knocked on the door of her Cockeysville home at 6 a.m. and asked if she was Yeardley Love's mother. The 22-year-old had been found dead, just weeks before her graduation from the University of Virginia, where she and the ex-boyfriend ultimately convicted of murdering her were varsity lacrosse players.

Now, with George Huguely V of Chevy Chase convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison, Sharon Love feels freer to speak about the crime, its aftermath and the broader issue of relationship violence. Through her advocacy, as well as the negligence suits she has filed against Huguely and the University of Virginia, Love hopes the warning signs of dating violence will no longer be ignored.

"The thing that would kill me is if something else happened, and I didn't do anything to prevent it," she says. "I couldn't live with myself."

On Thursday, Love appeared on the new Katie Couric talk show with her elder daughter, Lexie, and Jacquelyn Campbell, a Johns Hopkins School of Nursing professor who is one of the nation's leading researchers in partner violence. The appearance launched the "Be 1 for Change" campaign, which targets 16- through 24-year-olds with a new mobile app and a public service announcement about dating violence.

Love is still getting used to this new role in a cause that chose her, she says, rather than the other way around.

"As much as we wanted to avoid the topic," she says, "it kept coming back to us."

Yeardley's absence still present


On this particular morning, sunlight is streaming through the slats of a covered porch into a sitting room in the airy home that Sharon, 62, and her husband, John T. Love III, moved to when Yeardley was an infant. There are still dents on the garage where the girl who first picked up a lacrosse stick at age 5 used to swat balls against it. Her bedroom is untouched since she last was home, her mother and sister still unable to sort through or pack away her things.

The loss remains just below the surface, arising during what would otherwise be happy times, such as the wedding this spring of Love's niece, part of a gang of female cousins who grew up together and now are one fewer.

"It's so noticeable when Yeardley's not there," Love says. "I didn't expect to think that way at all, but I did. I didn't expect to think, 'Yeardley should be here.'"

Later this month, Love expects an even greater swell of emotions when Lexie, who works in information technology for a Baltimore company, marries longtime boyfriend Jamison Hodges. For now, Love busies herself with mother-of-the-bride details, excited about the festivities even as she knows she will feel the absence of both her husband, who would have walked Lexie down the aisle had he survived the cancer that killed him in 2003, and Yeardley, whose role as maid of honor will not be filled.

"It doesn't get easier, I think it just gets different," Sharon Love says of the past two grief-filled years. "It changes you forever."

Photographs of her daughters decorate tables and walls of the home, tracing them from their chubby-cheeked, beribboned childhood selves to the sleek prettiness of their 20s. Love is particularly fond of one that shows Yeardley at 8 or 9 with a dog the family had recently adopted from a shelter and looks to be smiling as broadly as his new owner.


"They both look so happy," Love says as the dog, named Bandit for the black patches of fur around his eyes, hovers underfoot.

Love retired this year from Baltimore City public schools, where she interpreted for and tutored deaf children for 28 years. While she will continue to work as needed with the school system, her focus will be the One Love Foundation that she and Lexie started in Yeardley's memory; the name plays off the jersey number Yeardley wore.

The three of them had always been close, each speaking to the others at least once a day. Still, Love says, she didn't realize how turbulent a relationship Yeardley had with her on-and-off boyfriend of a couple of years, Huguely, whom she had met a couple of times.

"I thought he was kind of happy-go-lucky, not as serious or career-minded as the other kids," she says. "I didn't see the other side of him at all."

Three months before her death, Yeardley had called, her mother says, upset about a fight with Huguely that had turned physical. "I thought he had held her down," Sharon Love says of how she remembers her daughter describing the altercation.

Love says she urged her daughter to call the police, but Yeardley told her that Huguely was remorseful and was keeping to himself. With graduation so close and each planning to move to opposite coasts, Yeardley told her, "it would be fine," Love says.


They arranged to meet in Annapolis, Love says, where they had dinner and drove back to Baltimore. They spent the next day together, with Yeardley accompanying her to work, but deciding to go back to U.Va. in time for her next lacrosse practice.

The fight with Huguely turned out to have been more serious: Another lacrosse player testified at the trial that he was at a party at Huguely's apartment complex when he heard cries for help from behind a door. Opening it, he saw Huguely with a chokehold on Love, whom he released after the other player entered the room.

Preventing more violence

This spring, Love filed two civil suits, one against Huguely and other against the University of Virginia and its lacrosse and athletic officials, charging them with negligence in her daughter's death. Each suit seeks about $30 million in damages.

"With George, the main thing was I didn't know how long his sentence would be. I just didn't want him walking out of jail and having his whole life handed back to him," she says. "I would hope he would have to work and earn a living."

Love says there were warning signs that Huguely's drinking problem and violent streak were growing out of control. At his sentencing hearing, a former teammate testified that Huguely beat him after learning he had left a party with Yeardley, an incident that both players discussed with their coach. A woman testified that Huguely grabbed her by the throat, angry that she had told her father, his high school lacrosse coach, that she was concerned about his drinking.


"I felt there were lots of signals that should have been addressed," Love says. "If you don't sue, it just goes away."

Love hopes the new mobile app and PSA will encourage earlier intervention in cases of relationship violence.

The PSA, produced by the Hunt Valley-based Renegade Communications to run on TV and online, shows a young man increasingly growing violent during an argument with a woman as observers rationalize to themselves why they aren't intervening. It's powerful — even without knowing the parallels to what happened to Love — and directs viewers to the new app that walks possible victims and friends through an assessment of relationship violence that is based on research conducted by Campbell, the Hopkins professor.

Campbell, who is advising the Love foundation, says she followed the trial and was struck by how closely it tracked the work she did developing a risk assessment for relationship violence turning to homicide.

"Being a mom myself, I thought, 'Oh, my goodness, if we could use what we learned through my research and what she has learned in these tragic events, to prevent it from happening again,'" Campbell says.

The Love case also caught the attention of Kim Ward, who with her husband, Michael Ward, the CEO of CSX Corp., have a foundation that funds programs for youth. The foundation has given $1 million to One Love to help it combat and raise awareness of relationship violence, particularly among young people.


"College is an important time — often that's where you meet the person you're going to marry," Kim Ward says. "We want to show young people that if someone is exhibiting that kind of behavior when they're young, it only gets worse as you get older."

For Sharon Love, the focus on relationship violence marks a new direction for the foundation she created in response to the outpouring of support she received in the wake of the murder. Initially, the foundation raised money for a new turf field, dedicated this month at Notre Dame Prep in Towson, as well as for scholarships and new lacrosse teams in the city. There were plans for community work involving the elderly. Such activities seemed a fitting way to honor the athletic young woman who always had a soft spot for older people.

"Our first thoughts were not to get into the domestic violence area," Love says. "Yeardley didn't seem to fit the categories. She was strong. She didn't put up with anything. … Regardless, she was a victim."

That Yeardley was not someone who typically would seem like a victim of relationship violence makes her that much stronger a symbol for raising awareness of how pervasive it is, Campbell says.

"It's not the public conception of what a typical domestic violence victim is …" Campbell says. "We don't think it happens to well-educated, middle-class younger women."

In the fall after Yeardley was killed, Sharon and Lexie Love were invited to a commemoration held every year for the Violence Against Women Act sponsored by one of the law's authors, Vice President Joe Biden. Sharon Love has come to view Biden as a friend, which is how she introduced him earlier this year at a Washington event, saying they had an understanding beyond words due to their experience with loss.


Biden had called her on the first anniversary of Yeardley's death, Love says, and shared advice on how he coped with the deaths of his wife and daughter in a 1972 car crash.

"He said, keep a calendar, and mark every day one through 10, with one being the worst and 10 being the best. Gradually, you'll look back at the calendar and you'll see you had 10 days, you'll have more 10 days than one days," Love says, recalling the conversation. "So we did that."

Days when she didn't feel like she could get out of bed were 1's. Days when she was busy and optimistic were, if not 10's, at least closer to that end of the scale.

It's still tempting at times to retreat from the public sphere, but then there will be a "Every Yard for Yeardley" fundraising event, or other activities to promote the foundation's work. And Love thinks of how so many, both friends and strangers alike have reached out to her in the wake of the murder and have supported the work being done in her memory.

"People have been so kind to us. That has kept us going," she says. "When you see the very worst, you also get to see the very best."


One Love App

The One Love Foundation has released a danger-assessment app based on research into relationship violence conducted by Jacquelyn Campbell of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. It can be downloaded from The foundation's public service announcement about violence can be viewed at