Gabby Petito, Domestic Violence, and Escaping Abusive Relationships

A purple ribbon signifying domestic violence awareness. Behind it is a sign reading "Stop Violence"

Gabby Petito’s Story

Gabrielle Petito’s tragic story has unfolded on the national stage over the past few weeks.

Gabby was engaged to her high school sweetheart Brian Laundrie. Gabby and Brian purchased a van and began traveling across the country in the van, visiting various national parks and sharing aspects of their adventures on social media platforms.

However, on August 12th, 2021, in Moab City, Utah, things took a turn for the worse when police responded to reports of disorderly conduct between Gabby and Brian.

Brian described Gabby as "worked up" because Gabby was stressed trying to start a blog, and their argument escalated quickly. The bodycam footage of Gabby shows an emotional, distraught young woman. She references having a lot of anxiety and stress.

The couple admitted to having been fighting with each other all morning.

On September 11th, 2021, Gabby Petito’s family reported her missing. On September 15th Brian Laundrie was officially named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance. On September 17th Mr. Laundrie was reported missing by his family. On September 19th, Wyoming law enforcement found Gabby Petito’s body. Mr. Laundrie has not been found, but several rewards have been offered for information leading to his arrest.

On October 1st, additional bodycam footage from the August 12th incident was released, showing visible bruises on her body as police officers questioned her. In this video, Ms. Petito said she had hit Laundrie first but also stated that Laundrie had hit her.

Understanding Victims of Violence

Leaving any relationship is something that many of us struggle with. Leaving an abusive relationship can be even more difficult.

If you or a loved one are victims of an abusive relationship, you should leave at the first possible opportunity. However, escaping abuse can be incredibly difficult and, at points, dangerous.

A victim’s reasoning for staying with an abuser is usually quite complex; however, a feeling of fear will pervade all instances of domestic violence. Many victims of domestic violence will feel trapped by threats of harm to themselves or their loved ones, or the fear that an abuser will escalate their abuse keeps a victim from trying to leave. Some victims of domestic violence feel shame in admitting that they are being abused or that they deserve the treatment they are receiving.

Other victims may have grown up in an abusive environment and are misinformed about what a healthy relationship should look like. Some abuse victims do not want to leave for fear that separating from their partner will negatively affect their children.

Many victims are scared that they will not be supported by their friends and family or lack the financial ability to support themselves if they were to leave their abuser.

These fears can paralyze a victim into not acting at all and remaining in an abusive relationship.

However, working with a plan can help combat the difficulties associated with protecting yourself and leaving an abusive relationship.

Steps to Take to Escape

One of the most beneficial things you can do is get as many of your personal affairs in order as possible before you leave. This means that, if you can, find a place where you can live and prepare it before going.

If you do not have your own bank account, we suggest that you open one. If possible, open up a credit card in your own name, especially if you are concerned that you will not initially be able to fund leaving. Speak to family and friends you trust beforehand and choose an opportunity to leave when your abuser is not in the home. If you are concerned that your abuser will continue trying to contact or threaten you, look into the option of changing your contact information.

Planning is essential, but in emergencies, remember that there are still options available to you.

Reach out to a nearby Domestic Violence Support Shelter, and you will be able to stay there if need be. Also, remember that if you choose to seek a domestic violence restraining order against your abuser, you can request the judge to order that your abuser provide financial support and pay for your attorney fees. Another option for gaining more control over your finances is to start putting money away into a separate bank account in the time leading up to your leaving, but this is not always a safe or reasonable option for an abuse victim.

Domestic violence has a sweeping impact on all aspects of a victim’s life. Many times, a victim feels like they cannot leave or that they deserve the treatment that they are suffering. A victim of abuse should never be forced to feel as if they are responsible for their abuser’s actions. And if you are suffering from domestic abuse, you should know there are options available for you to leave. Work on creating a plan that will keep you safe and remove you from your abuser, and do everything you can before leaving to make that transition as smooth as possible.

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  • What Happens to My Restraining Order If I Move Out of California? Read More

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