Our last blog talked about the secrets that perpetuate sexual assault. In previous blogs, we discussed the bystander effect. In the case of Yeardley Love, University of Virginia lacrosse player, it seems that many members of the men’s and women’s teams, sorority and fraternity members, were bystanders – witnesses to the abusive behavior of her former boyfriend and alleged murderer towards her, on numerous occasions. The unspoken thoughts surrounding the red flags that were flying everywhere often have the potential to be life-saving, so . . .was it REALLY a secret? Much speculation has been in the media surrounding this case, however, I’m sure if you think about it, you’re aware of a friend, relative, classmate, casual acquaintance, who is in a similar situation. Let’s review some of the concepts discussed on previous blogs.
By definition, a healthy relationship is “a connection between people that increases well-being, is mutually enjoyable, and enhances or maintains each individual’s positive self-concept.” A relationship should not make you or your friends fearful or apprehensive; lower your self-esteem, downplay your achievements, isolate you from healthy friends and family, or shatter your dreams. A relationship is not healthy if you are touched against your will, encouraged to participate in potentially harmful activities, spoken to in a disrespectful manner, or harmed in a physical or emotional manner. Love’s attacker was described by a teammate as “obsessive,” constantly texting and calling Love, to the point that people close to her worried about the relationship.
Another friend said the couple broke up in part due to an incident during which Love was attacked by her former boyfriend, who couldn’t remember the incident the next day.
According to the Virginia Child Protection Newsletter (VCPN, Spring, 2010, Vol. 88), data collected from 1999-2007 reflects a steady state of need regarding the status of domestic and sexual violence. Several trends are noted:
- Close to one in three homicides in Virginia is related to family and intimate partner violence.
- One in five college students report violence by a current dating partner.
The notoriety involved in this case has prompted a conversation with the college president and the Governor to increase domestic violence vigilance between college campuses and law enforcement in the state of Virginia. As discussed in a previous blog, Tabachnick (2008) suggests that “programs that shift social norms, develop institutional policies, and create legislative initiatives will support individual behavioral change by transforming the forces surrounding the individual. Our rapidly changing technology may also make it easier for people to reach out for help or offer assistance” (emphasis mine).
By all accounts, Yeardley Love was an ideal student, described by family, friends, former teachers, and teammates, as “an angel”. Hopefully, this angel can be a guardian to the safety of other victims of violent crimes against women, so that her untimely death will not have been in vain.