Death by strangulation. That was what was revealed in Gabby Petito’s autopsy. Her parents searched for weeks when they realized their baby girl was missing. But to no avail, they would never see their daughter again. Intentionally, and at the hands of an abuser, her life was snuffed out.
In recent weeks, the world has searched for a key suspect – Brain Laundrie. Laundrie, Gabby’s fiancé, was the last person known to see her alive. Because of this, he’s ranked pretty high on the suspect list. And for those invested in this case, many believe that he is her killer. This week, law enforcement found items belonging to Laundrie next to unidentified scattered human remains in a Florida swamp. As the body is being tested for DNA, countless individuals are clinging to a hope that it is not Brian so he can share the truth about Gabby’s death.
One of the most troubling aspects of this case involved police bodycam video. The couple was traveling into a park when they were stopped by Moab police in Utah for speeding, in conjunction with two bystander reports of the couple engaged in a domestically violent situation.
There’s no denying something fishy in the video. For me, it went downhill fast as Gabby was shown crying in the van, and her first words were, “We were fighting all morning, some personal issues.”
Crying, upset, and defenseless, Gabby was separated from Laundrie, and the footage shows her profusely apologizing. Other things she mentioned are:
- “He really stresses me out.”
- “He kept telling me to shut up.”
- “I guess he hit me, but I hit him first.”
- “He grabbed me and scratched me with his nail.”
Of the two reported calls of the couple arguing, one claimed Brian hit her. Meanwhile, the other stated the opposite. Because one call claimed she hit him, and because Gabby admitted to getting frustrated and hitting him first, the cops separated the two for the night. Since Laundrie was the “victim,” he was placed in a hotel, and Gabby was left in the van for the night.
And just like that, one of the last videos of Gabby Petito was recorded. Could the story have been different if the officers had reacted otherwise? Maybe. But hindsight never gets us anywhere. The truth is, this video is vital in the role of understanding domestic violence.
The footage showed Laundrie as a funny, charismatic, and charming man with a good personality. He was seen (somewhat nervously) asking officers what Gabby was saying about him and apologizing “if” he did anything. His mouth says one thing, but some believe his body language says something entirely different. All the while, Gabby cried in the car, doubled over in distress when talking to police, and told officers how he had hit and scratched her.
But in this case, it isn’t about who hit who. The real issue is there was obvious domestic abuse happening. Abuse is often talked about in different ways. Almost daily, I see articles concerning child or sexual abuse. But when it comes to intimate domestic abuse, it seems more hush-hush. When in reality, it is the real pandemic taking over our nation.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Below are other stats:
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence.
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
- 1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.
- 1 in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.
- Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
- 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.
- Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior
- Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.
I don’t know about you, but these stats blew me away. In my happy and God-fearing home, I didn’t know that such horrible things were happening across the nation. It wasn’t until Gabby’s case that I became disturbed by this issue which so many people face. And praise God that there are people who were aware of what was happening between the couple.
Thanks to bystanders reporting the couple's fights, the world saw how hurt this girl and couple were, and they did something about it. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if others would do the same. The NCADV lists a couple of signs and symptoms for those caught in an abusive relationship. These signs are similar to what was reported during the violent interaction between Brian and Gabby. A few are mentioned below:
- Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you
- Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do
- Preventing you from making your own decisions
- Blaming you for the abuse or acting like it’s not really happening
- Shoving, slapping, choking, or hitting you
- Threatening to commit suicide because of something you’ve done
- Threatening to hurt or kill you
- Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
An entire list of red flags is located here. But by simply learning and memorizing the signs and symptoms of abuse, anyone can step in and be a voice for someone hurting. Just like the individuals who called law enforcement, anyone can help defend the defenseless – even if it’s just a phone call. All it takes is boldness, awareness, and the willingness to do what is right. I pray more people will get involved with stopping this horrible crime.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy, Proverbs 31:8-9.
The hotline number for domestic abuse is 1.800.799.7233. At thehotline.org, information, resources, and help can be found.