Student-athletes learn about domestic violence

They are told to report problems to adults in light of death of lacrosse player Yeardley Love

  • This photograph of Yeardley Love was taken two years ago during a family vacation in Bethany Beach, Del.
This photograph of Yeardley Love was taken two years ago during… (Love family, Baltimore…)
April 28, 2011|By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

A year after college lacrosse player Yeardley Love was killed and her ex-boyfriend was arrested in her death, Baltimore-area high school athletes from private and public schools were told they should intervene if they suspect a friend may be in trouble.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger told a group of students and coaches at a conference Thursday that it appears that friends had known about fights between Love and her former boyfriend, George Huguely V, but that they didn't go to parents, coaches or police to report the problems.

Excessive texting, explosive anger, jealousy and mood swings are all warnings signs of domestic violence, he said. "You need to look for these signs in your good friends. You need to intercede and step in and help her," he said.

The death of Love, a Cockeysville resident, shook the lacrosse community in Baltimore, where she had played before moving on to play at the University of Virginia. Huguely, also a Virginia lacrosse player, was recently indicted by a grand jury on first-degree murder charges.

A number of students at the conference, called "Playing Safe, Fair and Sober" and sponsored by St. Joseph Medical Center, said they have gotten little information from coaches or parents about domestic violence and how to prevent it. Most of what was discussed at the conference was the first time the issue had been addressed in an educational setting, they said.

Dominick Brooks, a junior and football player at Calvert Hall College High School, said he knew someone who confided in him that she was the victim of domestic violence and that she had begun cutting herself because of it. He said he agreed not to tell anyone.

After listening to a presentation by Lisa Nitsch from the House of Ruth, a center for abused women, he said, "It really told the truth" about the problem of domestic violence. The details, he said, were all similar to what his friend experienced. "If I had known this I would have done a better job" of supporting her and getting help, he said, adding that his friend is now out of danger.

Dozens of students raised their hands when Nitsch asked how many people have personally known a victim of domestic violence, and a half-dozen students and coaches knew someone who had died as a result.

Coaches are the third most likely person a teenager will tell if they are the victim of abuse or are being threatened by a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to Nitsch, so it is important that coaches be aware of the signs and can react.

Shellenberger said that if a college student wants to break up with a boyfriend, the best protection is to do so on a Friday night in public with lots of people around or over the phone. The student should then go home to their parents for the weekend. He said victims can also change their phone numbers and should tell a law enforcement officer, their parents or an older adult who can help.

Half of all the homiides in Baltimore County are a result of domestic violence.

The conference, attended by about 600 high school athletes, also provided information on drinking and concussions. The main speaker, Dr. Gerard A. Gioia, chief of the division of pediatric neuropsychology at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, warned students of the dangers of ignoring a concussion, saying that high-schoolers are more likely to die of a head injury than college or professional athletes.

A teenager's brain, he said, also is more susceptible to being harmed by a second or third concussion, and athletes should immediately get off the field if they believe they have experienced signs of a concussion.

"You are incredibly energetic. You are not invincible. …You should be responsible not only for your own safety and health, but your friends' safety and health," he said.

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