Standing Up for Yeardley Love

Standing Up for Yeardley Love

UPDATE: George Huguely was found guilty today of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love. Both Huguely and Love were seniors at the University of Virginia when in May 2010, Love was found beaten to death in her apartment.

Following the verdict, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan released a statement stressing the importance of standing up and speaking out against abuse. "It remains now to each of us to commit to caring for one another and, when we see someone in trouble, to having the courage to intercede and offer assistance." While this case may seem like an anomaly, Love’s murder reminds us that abuse can occur among the well-educated and well-off, and the devastating truth is that forms of dating or intimate partner violence are actually quite common amongst college students.

According to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, publicity surrounding the trial helped build momentum for a law pending in the Virginia legislature that would mandate a coordinated response to intimate partner violence between campus police and local law enforcement.

College-age women continue to be at particular risk for gender-based violence, including sexual assault, IPV, and stalking. The Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that women ages 20-24 are at highest risk for dating violence, and a 2007 National Institute of Justice-sponsored study confirms that one in five women will experience sexual assault in their college years.

These alarming statistics highlight the crucial role that we all have to play as bystanders to abusive or violent relationships. Many college students don’t know how to recognize IPV or think that it’s not their business to get involved. But it’s the responsibility of colleges to institute campus-wide policies that encourage everyone to stand up, speak out, and step in against violence and abuse.

A sound campus policy on gender-based violence not only ensures that the institution is prepared to respond promptly and effectively to incidents and reports of violence when they do occur, but also endeavors to change campus norms so that community members hold themselves and each other to respectful and non-violent standards of behavior.

Along with sound policies on gender-based violence at the university level, programs that target middle and high school youth are crucial. The middle and high-school years offer key moments to educate young people about healthy relationships and ways to avoid dating violence. Effective violence prevention programs like Coaching Boys into Men raise awareness among young people of what constitutes abusive behaviors. Key data from a study of CBIM also showed that when witnessing disrespectful or abusive behavior towards women and girls, the young male athletes in the program were more likely to take action to stop it.

Everyone can advocate for programs like CBIM and policies that promote healthy relationships – in our schools, our workplaces, and our communities. Together we can prevent tragedies like the murder of Yeardley Love from occurring again.

To learn more about Coaching Boys into Men, visit www.coachescorner.org.

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