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Standing up to domestic violence: Remembering Yeardley Love

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Winston Churchill’s admonishment to humanity is frequently quoted. Yet, how often do we heed the warning?  How often do we seek to step up and make the change?


The late Virginia lacrosse athlete Yeardley Love

Four years ago this month, a beautiful and talented 22 year-old University of Virginia lacrosse player, Yeardley Love, was murdered just before her college graduation. Her 22-year-old ex-boyfriend was eventually convicted of the crime. His previous death threats revealed warped and untrained emotions. Now he will be spending much of his life in prison.

How will we treat this? Will it continue to fade away as headline news  — a sensational trial to follow? Or will this be a wake up call? Will we learn from this tragedy or face the risk of repeating it?

After Yeardley’s funeral, former NFL standout and high school football coach Joe Ehrmann wrote an open letter calling us to get to the root of this alarmingly common tragedy: America’s epidemic of bullying, dating and sexual abuse, and gender violence.

In the letter, his cross-hairs are aimed pretty near the bulls-eye as he signals out one of the main causes  — the failure of society and parents to model and teach authentic manhood to boys and young men. False definitions of manhood lead to poor relationship building, and an inability to empathize with others.

Counterfeit Manhood

In Jeffrey Marx’s book, Season of Life, Joe fingers three counterfeit definitions of manhood: physical prowess, financial prowess, and sexual prowess. This is a fool’s scoreboard  — tracking sports, money, and sex as measures of masculinity. Joe teaches his football players and the kids he works with that being a man, first and foremost, means the ability to enter into and maintain meaningful relationships. A man lives for a cause greater than himself and his needs. Authentic manhood means accepting responsibility, leading courageously, and enacting justice on behalf of others.

Emotional Deficiency: Conquering an Empathy Deficit Disorder

Joe emphasizes that when we teach our boys to “stop crying,” “stop those emotions,” and “don’t be a sissy,” we incorrectly define what it means to “be a man!” As he notes, this leaves many men unable to relate to the feelings of others  — including women. He warns that when this happens, women become objects “… used to either validate masculine insecurity or satisfy physical needs. When the validation ends or is infused with anger, control, or alcohol, gender violence is often the result.

Too many boys have wounds from their fathers, the break in their family, or shame that they are damaged goods and don’t measure up. Boys and men must be taught that emotions are valid, but they need to learn how to control those emotions. They need respect, encouragement, and training in empathy, a missing characteristic in a culture focused on self. Allowing empathy to grow helps prevent anger or jealousy from being acted out in the violence depicted in most entertainment.

Authentic Manhood, Strengthening Relationships … How We Can Take a Stand

In addition to damaged emotions and false definitions of manhood, I submit that the breakdown of marriage and the treatment of sex as an a-la-carte item in America’s cafeteria of libertine choices are linked to the crisis of relationship violence. These are currents that must be curbed if we want hope for our next generation. Our nation’s freedom to disagree about what is right and wrong is fundamental, but to shirk from defining right and wrong is neither love nor compassion. It is sabotage of precious young lives.

So what can you do?

  • Love your spouse: Resume dating him or her. Ask them what their main needs are from you and work at meeting them.
  • Spend time playing and praying with your children.
  • Prioritize the relationship skills of communication, apology, and forgiveness.
  • Train your teens to build friendships, not exclusive, clingy, sexually-involved romances.  Stop treating sex and violence as entertainment and sport.
  • Ask questions and have dialogue with your sons and daughters.
  • Affirm their worth … show respect.
  • Get candid with your sons about treating women as if they were their little sister; it’s not a game.
  • Pass on a vision of love, relational maturity, and commitment that is anchored in humanity, identity, empathy and transparency.

Oh yes, we parents are imperfect. That does not disqualify us from stepping up to parent this generation. Anything less is neither courageous nor loving.

Don’t let the tragic death of Yeardley Love fade away as another headline sensation.  Imagine if she was your daughter? What if the ex-boyfriend was your son?  Honor her memory. Prevent his path to shame. If you know someone suffering from domestic violence or you yourself are caught in that battle, read this article on Domestic Violence Awareness for ways to get support.  Also, read Joe Ehrmann’s article “One Team-One Heart-One Love = One Movement” to help end this tragedy.

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  1. Kyle Arn.'s Gravatar Kyle Arn.
    May 30, 2014    

    I am 15 years old. So i can see both sides of this page. If there is anything i have learned from watching my friends grow up and start dating, it is that parents must be involved in there kids relationships. I liked a girl once and i talked to my dad about it and i learned more from that conversation with my dad. Then in a majority of studies i have done, i have seen my friends date, i have heard their stories about their dates. I have seen them together. Sometimes i can see them heading to a dark road. I might say something but it is not my place. As a teen i beg parents to be involved. I have talked with my friends and they say their parents do not do anything but sit at the desk or go to work. I ask them, have you told them how you feel. They say no. As the parent you must approach them to talk how there walk with God is, whether they listen to you or not. I encourage you to have family devotions and family worship. Also if your problem is that no one can get off the screen do a media fast for a week. Do nothing but listen to what God says. You will be surprised what will happen. THANK YOU.

    • June 13, 2014    

      Thanks for your response, Kyle. I am 38 years old today and have a teenage son myself. He’s begun dating, and my wife and I decided to have a very involved observation of that relationship. We talk with him about many things, mostly about what is right versus the messages we receive from the rest of the world.

      My own dad once shared with me when I was young to not be that guy who shamed another girl by bragging, and also to not worry about expectations from other men to have sex. The point he was trying to make with me was that it was more important to do the right thing than to do the popular thing. That was the best advice he ever gave me.

  1. Standing up to domestic violence: Remembering Yeardley Love - on May 30, 2014 at 4:31 am

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