Yeardley Love died at the hands of former boyfriend George Huguely V.
Yeardley Love died at the hands of former boyfriend George Huguely V. (University of Virginia)

The Baltimore Ravens, thrust into a national debate over domestic violence after former running back Ray Rice punched and knocked out his future wife, is giving $400,000 to a local foundation that works to combat the problem.

The One Love Foundation, created by the family of Yeardley Love, the Cockeysville woman who was murdered in 2010 by her ex-boyfriend and fellow University of Virginia lacrosse player, said it would announce the gift and a two-year partnership with the team on Tuesday.

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"Obviously this is a big issue for the Ravens," said Katie Higgins Hood, the CEO of One Love. "They had heard what we are doing on the prevention side and that we're trying to get ahead of the issue."

The donation is the Ravens' second large gift to a domestic violence group this year, following criticism over the way the team and the NFL handled the Rice incident. In August, the team said it was giving $600,000 and entering a three-year partnership with the House of Ruth, which shelters and advocates for domestic violence victims.

The One Love Foundation said it would use the donation to offer workshops at area high schools and colleges in which students watch a film it has commissioned about a young couple whose relationship ends in violence and then discuss how they can recognize danger signals and intervene in real-life situations.

The 38-minute film, titled "Escalation," has been tested at seven college campuses, including Yale, Michigan State and Wake Forest, and the feedback has been positive, Hood said.

"We watched the film, and our committee, all of us were like, 'This film is fantastic — very moving, very powerful, very relatable,'" said Elizabeth Jackson, the Ravens' senior director of human resources. "It's realistic, hard to watch, and it has the ability to make a difference with youth."

Jackson, who also serves on the board of the team's charitable arm, the Raven's Foundation, said the team received "an influx" of requests from domestic violence groups that wanted to work with it in the wake of the Rice incident.

The team believed One Love's focus on young people meshed with the Ravens' other youth-oriented community efforts. The team already was familiar with One Love, which is named after Yeardley Love's jersey number, having contributed to it several years ago when it built a turf field at her alma mater, Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson.

Jackson said One Love's workshops also were a good complement to the efforts of the House of Ruth, which does prevention work as well but is best known for advocacy, intervention and providing housing and other services to victims.

Jackson said the team plans to remain involved with the group beyond signing a check — it will, for example, host a screening of the film at its Owings Mills training facility in January.

"We never throw money at a problem to make it go away," she said. "We want to make a difference in many areas."

The Ravens, heading into the first round of the playoffs this Saturday, have been playing under something of a cloud this year after Rice was arrested in February for assaulting his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.

The popular player, who was known and admired in the community for speaking out against bullying, was accepted into a pre-trial intervention program in New Jersey for first-time offenders and supported by team officials, even as they condemned his action. He and his fiancee married, and in July, the NFL suspended him for two games.

But after a surveillance video from inside the elevator surfaced in September showing Rice punching Palmer, the widespread outrage led the Ravens to fire him and the NFL to suspend him indefinitely.

Rice won a reversal of his suspension last month and can now be signed by another team.

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Among those who criticized the Ravens' handling of Rice was Sharon Love, the mother of Yeardley, who created the foundation after her murder. Her ex-boyfriend, George Huguely V, formerly of Chevy Chase, is serving a 23-year prison sentence.

Sharon Love told The Baltimore Sun in July she was shocked to hear Ravens coach John Harbaugh characterize Rice's action as simply a "mistake." She also said the NFL's original two-game suspension was too light compared to the way it punished players for other infractions, and reflected the way relationship violence isn't taken seriously.

Love said Monday she met with Ravens president Dick Cass as the Ravens considered funding and partnering with her foundation.

"I felt like they honestly recognized there is a problem, and they honestly think we have a solution," Love said.

Since losing her daughter, Love said, she has learned that relationship violence is much more common than most people know.

"I almost feel like hardly anyone is up to speed on the issue," Love said. "It's a topic that's not really talked about or really understood.

"The best we can do is stop it at a young age," she said. "We're thrilled because the Ravens are going to help us do that."

"Escalation," which is based on research on the way relationship violence can develop, was produced by Renegade Productions in Hunt Valley. It follows a college-aged couple in which a smitten young man turns from loving to possessive to, finally, controlling and violent — and how friends realize the warning signs of the dangerous escalation only in hindsight.

"Kids are saying, 'We recognize this'," Hood said. " 'We just didn't realize how dangerous it could be.'"

The One Love Foundation does not show the film without the accompanying curriculum, in which a facilitator leads a discussion of the issues raised by it.

The Ravens' donation will help the group also launch "Team One Love," a follow-up to the film that helps students create ways to end relationship violence on their campuses.

In a statement released by One Love, Cass said the Ravens "recognize the power of education to drive change.

"We're proud to honor the memory of Yeardley Love by helping One Love to educate young people across Maryland about the risks of relationship violence and more important, to give them the tools they need to ignite a national conversation around it," Cass said in the statement.

Since its start, One Love has released apps and public service announcements designed to help young people identify troubled relationships and encourage them to intervene.

"At the end of the day, this is not a Ravens problem or an NFL problem," Hood said. "It occurs all across the country."

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