A 2010 PEOPLE cover story on the murder of 22-year-old Yeardley Love changed the life of a California woman for the better, she reveals ahead of the anniversary of Love’s death.
“After reading that article, I realized, ‘That could happen to me,’ ” Annie King, 31, tells PEOPLE.
Love was beaten to death by ex-boyfriend George Huguely V, a fellow lacrosse player at the University of Virginia, in an alcohol-fueled rage on May 3, 2010.
Huguely was convicted in 2012 of second-degree murder and is serving a 23-year prison sentence for Love’s death, which he claimed was an accident.
While King says her own relationship never escalated to that level of deadly anger, PEOPLE’s coverage of Love’s case resonated deeply with her — and scared her — because her boyfriend of about two years had become increasingly controlling and violent.
She remembers sitting in a doctor’s waiting room in August 2010 when she spotted the May 24, 2010, issue of PEOPLE with Love’s picture on the cover and the headline “Virginia Lacrosse Killing: Could She Have Been Saved?”
“I left the doctor’s office crying,” says King, who was 23 at the time.
Weeks later, thoughts of that article prompted her to call out for assistance, for the first time ever, during an altercation with her boyfriend.
“The magazine cover with Yeardley’s face flashed through my head and I thought, ‘He’s going to kill me on accident right now,’ ” King says. “That made me yell for help.”
A concerned neighbor heard her and called police, who arrested her boyfriend, King says. She says she later filed a restraining order against him and broke up with him in 2011.
Now, six years later, King has started volunteering with the One Love Foundation, which Love’s mother, Sharon Love, and sister, Lexie Love Hodges, started in 2010 to educate young people about the signs of relationship abuse.
The foundation uses film-based content online and in the classroom to provide a framework for healthy relationships. In the last two years, more than 125,000 young people have gone through the workshop in person and One Love’s digital content has been viewed more than 60 million times.
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“When we first started to tackle this issue, we thought, ‘If we can just help one person it will be worth it,’ ” Sharon tells PEOPLE, adding how “brave” King was to come forward publicly.
“Hearing Annie’s story, I realize how connected we are,” Sharon says.
“Hearing other people’s stories is probably the most meaningful thing and the most helpful thing to people who are in a situation like that,” she says.
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King is sharing her story in a series of videos produced by One Love for the foundation’s annual Giving Day, which commemorates Yeardley’s death every May 3 and invites people to help end relationship abuse.
“One Love exists because Yeardley was killed and her death was avoidable,” the foundation’s CEO, Katie Hood, tells PEOPLE.
“We work to make sure others have information that Yeardley and her friends did not about unhealthy and dangerous relationships,” Hood says.
Annie’s story, she says, “is proof that this knowledge can change and save lives. In telling her own story, Annie herself will change and save lives, too. We are so grateful she is part of this movement.”
For her part, King says she decided to work with One Love after realizing last year — after running into her ex — that she needed to concentrate on “something positive.”
She sat down and wrote an email to One Love, and someone there “wrote back within 12 hours and asked if [they] could share my email with rest of office,” she says.
Inspired by King’s courage, Hood reached out to her immediately. When the two met a few weeks later, “I knew I wanted to do something with them because their approach was preventative and just felt like common sense,” King says.
It’s important, she says, that One Love is teaching young men and women — particularly those ages 16 through 24 — about abuse in relationships.
“There is an obvious need for open discussions to happen on this subject in an earlier stage in life,” she says. “Hopefully young people will see the red flags earlier and get out of their relationships sooner.”
And though King never met Yeardley, she says she considers her “a guardian angel.”