Weeks before college commencement, few young people are thinking about leaving a legacy. They’re finding apartments, securing first jobs, wrapping up courses and ordering caps and gowns.
However, in May 2010, three weeks before graduating from the University of Virginia, Yeardley Love was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, leaving her family to consider prematurely what the legacy of the smart, funny and promising young woman would be.
In the weeks and months following her death, Yeardley’s story brought national attention to relationship violence, including staggering statistics of both its prevalence and the fact that girls 16-24 are at the highest risk.
My sister and I were middle school students at the time and remember being struck by adults asking how this possibly could have happened. Watching coverage of Yeardley’s murder and the trial, we both reflected that even at our ages, we’d witnessed the mindset and societal norms that make relationship violence such a part of our culture.
That’s when we came up with the idea for Be a Friend.
The Be a Friend campaign encourages high school students to consider what it means to be a friend and to commit to developing healthy friendships. With a focus on prevention, the goal is to lay a foundation for the critical intervention work being done by Yeardley’s family through the One Love Foundation on college campuses. Importantly, Be a Friend is not victim-blaming or an effort to shift focus from the abusers. The goal is simply to start with ourselves and to recognize that each of us can make an impact on our culture.
Because of Yeardley’s connection to the lacrosse community, our first initiative provided blue ribbons to local high school girls’ teams to wear on game days as a show of solidarity with each other and in support of One Love. We also created posters to reinforce the team pledge of friendship.
By coming together and pledging our kindness, loyalty, support and trust in each other, we hope to do our part to secure Yeardley’s legacy.