Yeardley Love's mother speaks out against violence

Daughter, a University of Virginia student, was murdered by boyfriend

  • Sharon Love speaks about her daughter Yeardley, the University of Virginia lacrosse player from Cockeysville whose college boyfriend was recently sentenced for her murder.
Sharon Love speaks about her daughter Yeardley, the University… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
September 20, 2012|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

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.

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