The recent conviction of University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely in the savage beating death of classmate, and sometimes girlfriend, Yeardley Love might conclude the criminal phase of this most unseemly of crimes. But it marks just the beginning of figuring out what could be, perhaps should be, the silver lining of a case that, in the words of the prosecutor, had no winners.
Sure, there have been tributes to Yeardly's life, even a lacrosse field named for her at her prep school alma mater, but it's early yet to determine what the legacy of her young life and untimely demise might be.
I know what I, for one, am hoping for.
I am hoping that all young people recognize the incredibly destructive role that alcohol can play, particularly when unchecked by oneself or those who call themselves friends.
I am hoping that educators, of those in college and those working toward it, talk forcefully and passionately to their students about this tragic tale so that names and faces can attach to what generally appear only as bland numbers and statistical tallies.
I am hoping that college administrators redouble their efforts to spread the word about appropriate and inappropriate relationships and empower victimized students to seek help and those around them to speak up.
I am hoping that parents hold the line on underage drinking because we know that, among other unpleasant things, the earlier a young person starts to drink, the more likely it is he or she will experience alcohol-related problems throughout their lifetime.
I am hoping that our culture will abandon its ambivalence about athletes acting bad, not giving them an easy out because of their prowess on the field but rather holding them accountable because of their influence off of it.
Most of all, I am hoping that no family will again have to endure what the Love and Huguely families have endured. But the odds don't seem stacked that way.
Sadly, neither do the statistics.
According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
• Binge drinking, often beginning around age 13, peaks in young adulthood (ages 18 to 22).
• Among 12- to 20-year-olds surveyed, 15 percent were binge drinkers and 7 percent were heavy drinkers.
• Binge drinking during high school, especially among males, is strongly predictive of binge drinking in college.
In addition, The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking highlights that, among college students:
• An estimated 1,700 die each year from alcohol-related injuries;
• Approximately 600,000 are injured while under the influence of alcohol;
• Some 700,000 are assaulted by other students who have been drinking; and
• About 100,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assaults or date rapes.
I often write about what I call the "the three L's" - Life, Legacy and Leadership. Now I have a fourth ... Love. Yeardley Love to be more specific.
Hoping that her legacy will last.
Stephen Wallace, associate research professor and director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) at Susquehanna University, has broad experience as a school psychologist and adolescent counselor. For more information about CARE visit CARESU.org.
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