Yeardley Love's Death A Wake Up Call About Domestic Violence

George Huguely V and Yeardley Reynolds Love were seniors at the University of Virginia. They were both children of privilege, student athletes on the nationally ranked UVA Lacrosse team, looking forward to graduation and a bright future less than a month away. Their dreams were shattered on a Monday morning when George punched down Yeardley’s door and savagely smashed her head against the wall, over and over until she was dead. His lawyer claims it was an accident.

The entire UVA community was shocked and saddened; family and friends expressed disbelief, stating that this was not the George they knew, the University said it had no indication that George could be violent. Even his Palm Beach nanny commented “he was a good hearted kid.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. George was a ticking time bomb, involved with the police on at least three separate occasions. There was an episode in Florida for under-age drinking, a confrontation with his father on the family yacht and more recently he was arrested for public intoxication. In that case he yelled obscenities, threatened to kill the arresting officer and physically assaulted her to the point she had to use a Taser to subdue him. In addition one friend said he would “get violent when he was F***ed up”, which apparently was not uncommon. As for his relationship with Yeardley, he would obsessively call and text and had physical altercations with her which had to be broken up by friends. She broke up with him for good after their last fight, leading to the night before her death when he was seen breaking bottles at a party insisting he would get her back. There is even speculation (unconfirmed) based on the charge of murder 1 that he made death threats to her.

Unfortunately no one took the time to connect the dots. UVA said they didn’t know about his arrests, the court system in the officer confrontation let him off with community service and a suspended sentence, teammates and friends ignored his abusive tendencies and now everyone is “shocked” that George could do something like this.

Domestic violence doesn’t occur out of the blue in a vacuum. There are almost always red flags, unfortunately most either don’t know what flags to look for or prefer to bury their head and say “it’s not my problem.” Domestic abuse has its roots in our violent stone-age past when women were a possession and a status symbol. Some guys today still have that entitled mindset and often a breakup or a woman who “fights back” is a huge ego blow summed up with, “who does she think she is, I’ll teach her!”. It’s about control and power and it’s progressive. It starts with emotional abuse, then progresses to verbal abuse and finally escalates to physical abuse. The time of a break-up is the danger zone when the guy starts thinking, “how DARE she break up with me” and “if I can’t have her no one else will.”

Here are some staggering statistics:

- 25% of women have been a victim of intimate partner violence.

- Almost 5 million assaults occur each year, less than 20% of assaulted women report the abuse or seek treatment for an injury

- Over 1,000 women a year are killed by an intimate partner.

Domestic violence occurs across the board from drunk to sober, young to old, rich to poor -- without regard for race, prestige or fame. We must realize that most cases of domestic violence are never witnessed by a third party, so if you do see it, even once, you are witnessing the tip of the iceberg and the abuse is likely to be much more severe behind closed doors. In addition, a history of any type of violence (especially against a police officer) is a predictor for domestic violence.

Sadly, I honestly don’t think that George’s family or friends or the University of Virginia or even George himself thought he was capable of this heinous crime. That’s why education is so crucial. In the end domestic violence thrives only because we as a society turn a blind eye and prefer to believe it doesn’t exist. By shining a light on this dirty, little talked about secret, we can make a difference.

Dr. Dale Archer is a psychiatrist and frequent guest on's "The Strategy Room." For more, visit his website:

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