Three years ago, Sharon Love's life changed forever. Early in the morning of May 3, 2010, police knocked on her door to inform her that her 22-year-old daughter, Yeardley, had been found dead, just weeks before her graduation from the University of Virginia. Her ex-boyfriend and fellow U.Va. lacrosse player George Huguely was later convicted of her murder.
The story made rounds in national media as a shocking example of domestic violence in a seemingly tight-knit community of college athletes. Sadly, what happened to Yeardley—and to so many more young women like her—continues to serve as a heartbreaking lesson that relationship violence can happen to anyone.
In fact, the sheer number of women affected by domestic violence is nothing short of staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an alarming one in three women will experience IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) in her lifetime, while one in five college-aged females will experience some form of IPV during her college career. Another way to think of it: every nine seconds, a woman in the U.S. is beaten by an intimate or former partner.
In hopes of changing these awful statistics, Sharon Love and her daughter, Lexie, established the One Love Foundation in 2010 to honor the memory of Yeardley. "When I think about Yeardley, the first thing I remember is her beautiful smile," Love says. "When she walked into a room, she brought with her a feeling of excitement and joy." The charity's programs keep her wonderful spirit alive by promoting strength of character and service.
In keeping with its main mission to end relationship violence through education and technology, the Foundation has recently released a mobile app called the One Love Danger Assessment App. This tool, backed by more than 20 years of research at Johns Hopkins University, asks users a series of questions to assess their level of danger in an abusive relationship and provides resources to get out of a potentially harmful situation before it's too late. "The app equips young people—most of whom are always on their smartphones all the time now—with a free, anonymous tool that's simple and easy to use," says Mike Meech, managing director of the One Love Foundation.
If you're concerned that a friend (or you) may be in an abusive relationship, download the One Love app and watch out for these warning signs, says Nancy Glass, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., a relationship violence expert at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Be aware if your partner:
- Is extremely jealous of your friends and controlling of your activities and who you spend time with
- Expects you to call or text to "check in" all the time and gets upset if you don't
- Makes you feel afraid when he is upset or angry
- Puts you down and/or humiliates you in front of friends, family, or others
- Hits, pushes, slaps, holds you down, punches, chokes, or hurts you in other ways
- Pressures you or forces you to have sex when you don't want to
"If any of these signs seem familiar to you or a friend, the most important initial step is to seek support and resources," Glass says. You can talk to anyone you trust: a close friend, roommate, parent, teacher/faculty member, professional counselor, or an advocate through a local or national hotline, like the Domestic Violence Hotline or Love Is Respect. She adds that you should develop a safety plan for situations when you feel you may be in immediate danger, which should include strategies such as developing a code word with a friend to let them know to call the police, setting up your phone with emergency numbers to call or text, and assessing where both you and your partner live for potential escape routes.
The One Love Foundation's five-year goal is to cut incidents of domestic violence in half. At this point, simply raising awareness is crucial. "Even though so many women are affected by domestic violence, the topic isn't really on anyone's radar," Love says. "We hope to create a cultural shift in the treatment of relationship violence so it's talked about."
To that end, the Foundation will soon introduce a free educational program that anyone around the country can use to lead a discussion about relationship violence and how it can be prevented. "Ultimately, the best thing you can do is if you witness violence happening—whether to a friend or yourself—don't let the perpetrator get away with it," Love says. "Get support, talk to authorities, and prevent the cycle of abuse from continuing."
Here are more ways to support the efforts of the One Love Foundation:
- Visit joinonelove.org to learn more about domestic violence.
- Make a $10 donation by texting "love" to 27722.
- Watch and share the Foundation's Be 1 for Change PSA: