Could Yeardley Love’s Death Have Been Prevented By UVA’s Safety Tips?
On early Sunday morning, 22-year-old University of Virginia women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found dead in her apartment with "obvious physical injuries." Hours later, 22-year-old men's lacrosse player George Huguely was arrested and charged with first degree murder. Police didn't release many details in the case, save that Love and Huguely "had been in a relationship at some point" and that further investigation would focus on questioning "teammates and friends about the nature of the relationship between Love and Huguely."
All we know about Love's death is that she was likely killed by someone close to her. So why are UVA police responding to the murder by warning students against crimes committed by strangers?
The e-mail, from University of Virginia Police Chief Mike Gibson:
While Charlottesville remains a relatively safe environment, crimes do occur in our community. The best defense is to be prepared and to take responsibility for your own safety and for that of your friends and fellow students. A few key reminders:
Trust your instincts about a person or situation. If you feel uncomfortable, immediately report your concerns to police by calling 911.
If you are on the Grounds and need help, pick up one of the blue-light telephones. You will be immediately connected to University Police. Be aware of your surroundings. Do not let a cell phone conversation or listening to music distract you when crossing the street or in any type of situation that calls for your full attention.
Avoid isolated areas and walking alone at night. Use SafeRide (434-242-1122), walk with friends, or take a late-night weekend bus.
Keep your doors and windows locked.
Never allow strangers to follow you into a locked building and gain entry by "tailgating" you once you swipe the card reader in a residence hall. Also, never prop open card-reader doors.
If you see any of the following, immediately call the police at 911: a prowler, someone peeping into a residence, an individual watching, photographing or filming an area, or any other suspicious behavior.
Work with your neighbors and fellow community members to ensure a safe environment.
UVA police have instructed students how to avoid and/or respond to the following: An attack on the grounds of the university. Getting hit by a car. A late-night street attack. An attack by an unknown intruder. An attack through the window. An attack by a prowler. An attack by a peeping Tom. An attack by a suspicious filmmaker.
Police believe that Love was killed by a more likely suspect—a man she knew. In general, women, and particularly young women, are more likely to be killed by someone they know than by a stranger. So why hasn't UVA included any information here about domestic violence?
UVA student Madeleine Conger, campus e-mail tipster extraordinaire, forwarded me Gibson's e-mail. "I find it appalling . . . that no mention is made of how to tell if you are in an abusive relationship, how to avoid escalating aggressive confrontation, resources for people in abusive situations, or tips for friends of those who are," says Conger. "Not even the number of the amazing women's center we have here." She adds: "I just don't understand why we can't speak honestly about violence. . . . Locking your doors isn't going to keep your boyfriend from hitting you."
I have a call out to the University of Virginia Police Department asking about the nature of the tips. In the meantime, students can head to the UVA Women's Center, where they can find resources specific to sexual assault and domestic violence.