Petito story shines light on unhealthy relationships

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Marisa Hamilton '22, Staff Reporter

The recent murder of Gabby Petito has started conversations about relationship violence, and how cases of missing people are shared in the media.

Engaged couple Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie left New York on July 2, to begin their four-month road trip across the country. One month and 10 days into the vacation, a police officer in Moab, Utah investigated the couple having a physical altercation in their vehicle. No charges were filed upon request of both individuals. 

On August 17, Laundrie flew back to the couple’s home in North Port, Florida to get more belongings. He rejoined Petito in Salt Lake City six days after they separated. The next day, on August 24, Petito told her mother they were leaving Utah and going to the Wyoming Teton range, over FaceTime. This would be the last time the mother and daughter would speak on the phone. 

Laundrie then hitchhiked to the Spread Creek campsite on August 29. Three days later, on Sept. 1, he returned home without Petito. Concerned members of Petito’s family questioned where Gabby was and reported her missing to the Suffolk County police on Sept. 11. 

Laundrie’s family had not seen him since Sept. 13. As a result, the FBI began to search for both Laundrie and Petito on Sept. 17. Human remains found in Teton County were confirmed to be Petito’s soon after Sept. 18. One month later on Oct. 21, remains discovered in the Florida Carlton Reserve matched with Laundrie’s DNA. 

We have to rethink about how we participate as a society in letting these things happen.”

— Elizabeth Heuser, Wellness Director

She continued, “One thing that can be done is to try to find out if [abuse victims] need help. It’s hard to do but that’s what these training organizations are for, like One Love and RAINN.”

It all really depends on the circumstance of their situation and who their support system is, but making sure they connect with the hotlines or advocates who will help them implement a plan so they may leave the relationship safely.”

— Natalie Martinez ’22, One Love student ambassador

Petito’s case has also informed more people about “missing white woman syndrome,” a term that describes how missing young white women receive more news coverage than missing people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Bay Area journalist Frank Sommerville criticized this disparity on KTVU and was suspended for calling attention to this issue, according to media reports. 

Raquel Oliva-Gomez, the Wellness Club moderator, shared her reaction to the Sommerville situation.  

“That is really upsetting to me because they are silencing him, and he has a platform to be able to raise this awareness…I think that part of it is that because it’s on social media or it’s on the news I feel that there is still some deep-seated racism that happens.”

Spreading awareness about all missing people, and accessible resources are important elements of decreasing domestic violence. With these tools, many believe cases like Gabby Petito’s can become preventable.