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Women and Violence | The Murder of Yeardley Love

Updated on May 02, 2016
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy has researched and written about relationships, domestic issues, dating, and con-artists for more than a decade.

The Sad Story of Yeardley Love

Yeardley Love was killed by her abusive boyfriend.
Yeardley Love was killed by her abusive boyfriend.

Yeardley Love's Murderer Admitted He Killed Her, But Pleaded Not Guilty

In May 2010, while the families of many college seniors were happily planning graduation parties and post-commencement vacations, Yeardley Love’s grief-stricken parents buried the battered remains of their beautiful 22-year-old daughter, who would have graduated just weeks from the date of her funeral.

According to news stories, George Huguely, 22 at the time, admitted he kicked in her door, repeatedly ‘shook’ her head and knocked her against a wall, leaving her battered and bloody remains to be discovered by her roommate on May 3. It was an accident, he claimed. The couple, both of whom played lacrosse at the University of Virginia, only had an ‘altercation.’

After nearly two years, Huguely pleaded not guilty on February 6, 2012, with his attorney still claiming Yeardley’s death as an accident.

One wonders precisely which of the actions Huguely admits to were accidental. The repeated violence in the attack calls to question the use of the word 'accident.' Did he just happen to stroll by the door to her room and 'accidently' kick it in? Surely he knew his violence was causing serious injury to his former girlfriend. Perhaps he just wanted to get her attention and straighten out a few misunderstandings.

Apparently the judge and jury in Huguely's trial were skeptical about his claims that the death was accidental, too; Huguely was found guilty, and in August 2012 was sentenced to 23 years for taking the life of Yeardley Love.

Even the words Huguely used when addressing Love's family at the sentencing seemed designed to avoid responsibility for his actions. Rather than apologizing for what he had done as he turned toward Love's mother and sister, he said he was sorry for their loss, then told them he prayed they would find peace.

Huguely's attempt to deflect attention to the family (as though their grief and loss occurred in a vacuum, with no action on his part) is typical of inability or refusal many batterers have to accept and acknowledge their own actions.

Some Battered Partners Have Scars and Some Don't

Not all domestic abuse leaves scars. Emotional abuse is damaging as well.
Not all domestic abuse leaves scars. Emotional abuse is damaging as well.

About Three Women a Day Die From Partner and Spousal Abuse

The violence surrounding Yeardley Love’s death is a frightening example of what happens to thousands of women each year who are physically violated by their intimate partners. The National Organization for Women (NOW) estimates that a third of the women murdered each year are killed by intimate partners. About three women a day die from these attacks. The Domestic Violence Resource Center estimates that one in four women has been the victim of domestic violence at some point in her life.

Sadly, according to NOW, a disproportionate percentage of female victims of domestic violence are younger women and women living in poverty. Younger women can be less skilled in recognizing and navigating out of a relationship that has become abusive, controlling or dangerous. Additionally, women living in poverty may recognize they’re being abused but lack the resources to escape or be unfamiliar with community organizations that can help.

Partner abuse is not new, but its recognition as a national shame is but a few decades old. Only a generation or two ago, the battering of a spouse was a closet-crime that rarely, if ever, resulted in prosecution or conviction. All too often, women who turned to authorities for help were ignored and told it was a ‘domestic problem.’ The unspoken message this conveyed was that men held ownership over women and, therefore, could treat them in any manner they desired, and their actions, whether loving or violent, were above the law. A companion attitude of this approach, equally as cavalier, was to assume a battered woman somehow deserved her bloodied nose, blackened eyes, broken limbs, or, in the worst cases, her memorial service.

Although the attitudes of law enforcement have changed, it is unfortunate that some sons and grandsons of that era are still inflicting brutal damage to the women in their lives. Even bright, healthy, educated women such as Yeardley Love can be vulnerable to such abuse. Violent individuals don’t come with warning labels; they can be seductively affectionate, loving and reassuring. Often, they are insidiously masterful at converting an innocent dating relationship into one where they hold the power and shift blame for their behavior to their victims. Insecure questions such as “Where were you?” or “Who was that you were talking to?” can escalate into jealous arguments that leave a young woman confused and defensive as she frantically tries to sooth or explain away the anger her ‘loving’ boyfriend suddenly exhibits.

Young girls who are away from home for the first time, on college campuses or in the military, are further made vulnerable by being removed from the security of their homes and families, where a trusted (and more experienced) adult might be able to spot an abuser and counsel them away from danger.

Do you know anyone (including yourself) who has been the victim of domestic violence?

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As in Yeardley Love's Case - Domestic Violence is Often Unreported

So far, we don’t know if any of the classmates, professors, team members or coaches who knew George Huguely and Yeardley Love spotted behaviors that might have served as red flags. If they did, and if those red flags were ignored, we can only hope none of them will be plagued with sleepless nights wondering whether Yeardley Love would still be alive had they done something. We can, however, raise awareness about partner abuse and help young women recognize it in time to escape. We can help give our young women the self-confidence, internal strength and sense of personal worth to walk away from an abuser rather than allowing him to twist her mind into thinking his violence is her fault.

We tend to think that jealousy and control can only happen in person, but the advent of social networking sites on the Internet has created new arenas for predators and abusers. A jealous boyfriend can monitor whether his partner is online and demand to know who she was talking with. An abusive partner can convince his girlfriend to ‘share’ passwords in order to allow mutual access to e-mails, which then become tools for exerting control in the relationship. Manipulation can take many forms; anything that diminishes a woman’s control over her own body and her personal free agency should be examined for possible abuse.

Many batterers immediately blame their victims; "She drove me to it!" or "She asked for it!" An extension of this behavior is to 'apologize' for what the family feels, rather than for what the attacker did. Huguely's words at his sentencing, offering only his 'sorrow' at what the family felt, reflect an effort to remove himself from the picture.

We do not know what led George Huguely to go to his girlfriend’s room and engage in an ‘altercation.’ As reasonable adults, though, we should assume that a responsible discussion (or even a heated argument) would not have required him to attack her violently and leave her to die.

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  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 2 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, PeachPurple - thanks for the comment. Yeardley Love's story is so heartbreaking - I cannot imagine what her parents went through. I am a firm believer in raising awareness about domestic or partner violence. I appreciate you reading the hub!

  • peachpurple profile image

    peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    thanks for the detailed hub, i didn';t know the real story behind this victim. voted up

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 2 years ago from Planet Earth

    I agree, CMCastro - and thanks for reinforcing the need for agencies and law enforcement to keep vigilant. Your strategy of walking away is one that has power and is often very effective. I admire you for having the strength to do that! All the best as you go forward.

  • CMCastro profile image

    Christina M. Castro 2 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

    Domestic Violence is very familiar to me. I thought I could trust someone who ended up being threatening and could have injured me terribly if I had not been strong emotionally and spiritually enough. The best action I had toward this person was to turn around and walk away. Unfortunately, Domestic violence is a circle, sometimes after leaving one rough relationship, the person will find themselves in another. It took a long time to overcome by myself;help is what I sought. The local support agencies in major court systems that support Family offer assistance.

    Ms. Yeardley Love's demise and loss was a wake up call for many young people who need support in relationships. Let's hope and pray that violence like this diminishes. The justice system should make it more tough for those who are guilty of the crimes against those they were in relationships with.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth

    That's a good question, Jackie - nothing seems to have worked, however, some countries have much lower rates of homicide and murder. Various factors in those countries could be weighed - but this particular (very horrific) crime didn't appear to relate to firearms, or socioeconomic disadvantages, or other things often used in arguments. It was sheer physical violence, by someone who, as you said, should never again be on the streets.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

    Yeardley's murderer took a life and he should have gotten life. It was like her life was worth nothing to ever let him go. So in his 40s; or younger no doubt, he will be let loose upon the world and whether he is a threat or not he gets his life back and she never will. So what is the deterrent for would be murderers?

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi,PDX - Well said; I feel the same way. We need more awareness of violence and abuse in dating and marriage.

    Thanks for your comments - and I'm sorry for the trauma your community has experienced.

  • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

    Justin W Price 4 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

    Very heartbreaking stuff, Marcy. In light of Whitney Heichel, who lived not too far from me, it is an increasingly dangerous world. it's sad we can't trust our neighbors and lovers anymore. Thanks for bringing it all to light.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Nettlemere - I agree with you completely; his behavior seems to indicate he still wants to remove himself from the outcome of his actions. Thanks for reading and commenting - I appreciate your thoughts.

  • Nettlemere profile image

    Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

    I'm particularly interested in the way the killer tries to appear caring by praying for peace for them, whilst as you say Marcy, completely failing to acknowledge any part he played and showing no remorse, which surely indicated strongly that this was an ongoing behaviour pattern for him and not a one off accident in a moment of madness. I'm relieved he was found guilty and sentenced appropriately.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    You are so right, JamaGenee - things have improved somewhat, but we still aren't where we should be. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • JamaGenee profile image

    Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

    Huguely's claim that Yeardley's death was an "accident" would be laughable if not for the fact that she's dead and he isn't.

    In Oklahoma, responding officers and judges don't question that a 300-lb, 6'4" bruiser was acting in "self defense" when he beat his 5-foot, 100-lb, unarmed wife or girlfriend to a bloody pulp. It's not uncommon for such women to then be charged with assault and thrown in jail after being released from the hospital, and the abuser listed as the "victim" when SHE stands trial. Very sad...

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    alexsaez1983 5 years ago

    Sorry Nell, but that statement was absurd. How can they enact a law preventing someone from pleading innocent before a trial can even be established to prove their guilt? That's like digesting a burger before you put it in your mouth. It's not possible. Besides, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Many innocent people have been imprisoned for decades, even though the case seemed airtight.

    As sad as it is, I'd rather see a guilty person acquitted than watch an innocent person be convicted.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thank you, Deborah. My heart goes out to her parents.

  • DeborahNeyens profile image

    Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

    Great hub. Thanks for bringing awareness to such an important topic.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thank you, Curiad - it is so sad that this still happens in the world.

  • Curiad profile image

    Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

    Violence in any form is wrong except in Self defense (my opinion). Violence against women, violence against men, violence of one country against another. I don't claim to know the reasons but I can say that it is a huge problem and the laws will not solve it. I think it will take a complete revolution in human thinking and possibly a firmer belief in God and moral responsibility for this to change. Thank you for this timely and important article!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    What a great idea - to have law drafted by using the information from victims to see what works and what doesn't work! I know there are many 'protections' for perpetrators as well as victims, but some of the laws just don't cut it. Thanks for reading and posting!

  • pmccray profile image

    pmccray 5 years ago from Utah

    As a society I feel we give lip service to domestic violence that is why it's on the rise.

    I tried to help a friend file a protection order against her abusive spouse it so much ridiculous crap. The female office providing the assistance, was horrid, even laughed at my friends charges. The protection order is usually never abided by someone that is intent on causing you bodily harm. I've even heard of a case where the order was found next to the spouses body! Therefore, its useless.

    We need to scrap our current laws, and start over, using the input of those who have suffered at the hands of another. Excellent piece, voted up, marked useful and interesting.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, American View - there are many women (men, too) who probably wish they had a hero to intervene, such as you did. Good for you! I don't know what keeps victims going back, but I imagine it's a complicated mix of fear (they get threatened), torn feelings, denial, and helplessness. Among other feelings. I'm glad the wife told the police the truth in the incident you mentioned.

  • American View profile image

    American View 5 years ago from Plano, Texas

    Marcy,

    A tough subject to write about. I can hear the idiot lawyer now saying she fell repeatedly and that is how she got her injuries. Hopefully his client has met Bubba during his incarceration.

    During my years in the fire service, we responded with ENS to domestic calls. So sad to see the after math. While I was living in Florida a few years back, I was in Walmart waiting on line. At the customer service desk was a couple. The guy was loud and suddenly starting hitting the woman he was with. I ran over and help. After I showed him what it felt like to be abused, I held him down till the cops came. Well he said I jumped him and his wife just stood there and said nothing. I was arrested and taken away. A few hours later the wife told the cops the truth and I was released. I wish i could figure out the hold the batterer has over his victim that she keeps going back. If there was a pill that could be invented to open their eyes and not go back, I would invent it.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Suzzycue - I agree that it doesn't always make sense to us when victims go back to an abusive situation. I think there are many reasons that can happen - they want to believe it will be better, or they are afraid they can't make it on their own, or any number of other reasons. Yes, it is such a blessing to have shelters to offer safety and support. Even the shelters have to have hidden addresses, though, due to stalking and threats.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Ardie - I've seen abuse as well, and I absolutely agree that victims end up feeling trapped, helpless, and drained from spending tremendous energy just trying to survive (and in some cases, trying to protect their children). It's hard to see a way out, and I admire those who finally find that strength. Thanks for your comments!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    I'm so sorry you've been through abuse, dragnhaze - and equally sorry you've had the painful estrangement from your children. I'm glad, however, that you had the strength and resources to get out of that situation. Kids are smarter about relationship issuea than we realize, and I agree; they will likely put the pieces together and want you in their lives when they process things. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  • suzzycue profile image

    Susan Britton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    This was a hard hub to read. It is hard to leave a situation like this if you have no money and no one to trust. We are lucky if you want to call it luck that we have facilities that abused woman can go so they can get a roof over their heads and be protected. But it also is a mystery, why so many of them return to their abbusive partners.

  • Ardie profile image

    Sondra 5 years ago from Neverland

    You have brough to light a VERY important, sad, and shocking issue that can be so difficult to discuss. I know from witnessing a friend in this type of situation that is just isn't "easy" for these women to get out of the abusive situations. Money is restricted, children are used as weapons and sometimes the woman is so broken emotionally that she just doesn't think she deserves to be treated better. I hope the numbers drop and women (and yes, men who are battered) find the help they need. I am going to share this for all the men and women out there who think they deserve this type of life. It CAN be changed!

  • dragnhaze profile image

    A.K. Love 5 years ago

    Thank you Marcy for writing about how we need to be educating our young women about the signs of abusive partners, I unfortunately have been in an abusive situation and have been alienated from my 2 children because I left the abuse. Though I may be alienated from them at least I am still ALIVE to be here for them, as I'm sure they will want to know me when they are grown.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, jeannieinabottle - I agree, we have become discouraged after seeing the OJ trial and other travesties. It will be interesting to see what happens in Yeardley's case.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile image

    Jeannie InABottle 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    These are such disturbing statistics. There are so many crazy people out there. I also know men who've been abused by women, too. It is a shame more people can't be in healthy relationships. I remember hearing about poor Yeardley. It is horrible, but I'll bet that guy will barely do any time in jail at all.

    Interesting hub and voted up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    I'm glad you were able to escape, Nell. Teenagers simply don't understand the risks - and for that matter, many adults don't. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

    Such a sad and tragic story, how on earth can he plead not guilty?! it's a scary thought that the men that we meet who are loving and kind can turn into an animal like this, I remember getting into a car years ago, I was a teen and thought I knew it all! and one of the guys who was also getting a lift started on me, luckily the driver got out and threw him out, but it was terrifying at the time, the police and all the authorities should bring in laws that won't allow anyone to plead innocence when they have obviously done it.

  • rlaha profile image

    rlaha 5 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

    Yes, hopefully your hub will inspire others to open up and help start the prevention of domestic violence in the future. Thanks.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Alexsaez1983 - I agree, males are also victims (I didn't have space to address this, am thinking of doing another hub on that topic). I'm laughing at your gasoline quote, by the way!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Riaha - it's so sad that there's still a stigma for the victims, and so many are afraid to report it (or they don't recognize it). I appreciate your comments.

  • profile image

    alexsaez1983 5 years ago

    Great hub. Ironically, men are also abused by their female partners at times. These are way less frequent, but they also are even more rarely reported. I think it needs to be addressed as domestic violence against people in general for the full problem to be solved. I hope that guy gets what's coming to him. Now, excuse me while I "accidentally" burn down my house with gasoline and matches...

  • rlaha profile image

    rlaha 5 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

    Thank you so much for writing about this topic. A lot of people are afraid to write about this kind of thing because they don't think that it would ever happen to them or to people they know. I think more people need to be aware that this DOES happen and can happen to anyone. The victims of spousal/relationship abuse need to be able to be strong enough to be able to get out of it before it happens again or worse, they get killed. Voted up, interesting and useful! Thank you!

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