What Gabby Petito’s Case Says About Cops—and Us

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Gabby Petito is one of the thousands of women who disappear every year as almost three women are murdered by their romantic partners every day in America, but unlike almost all of these women, she has made headlines and with her disappearance and possible death , a kind of human Rorschach test: a meme, a hashtag, a social media moment, and a movement.
Gabby Petito's hashtag has been searched 268 million times on TikTok. In the same area where Gabby Petito disappeared, 710 indigenous people - mostly girls - disappeared between 2011 and 2020, but their stories did not lead news cycles, internet detectives did not plug Instagram and Twitter to solve the mystery of their disappearances. Personally, I find it more than annoying that these 710 people didn't get the same amount of attention as this white, model-skinny 22-year-old who documented her travels through Utah's national parks in a white van with her friend on Instagram.
While her story has resonated on many levels - for some she is an abused friend, for others the victim of a serial killer like the one found on a Cold Cases podcast series (two newlyweds were murdered around the same time in Moab ). when Petito came to town), and many of us see this story as evidence that the police often don't take domestic violence as seriously as they should.
Van Life couple got into physical brawls days before the 22-year-old disappeared
August body camera footage of officers responding to a domestic disturbance phone call shows Gabby crying in the back seat of a police car weeks before she would go missing. The man who called 911 said, "He saw Petito (fiancé Brian) beating Laundrie during an argument before getting into the vehicle through the driver's side window, as if Brian had locked her out and she was trying to find a way in to find ", so the police report. Petito cried "uncontrollably".
"At no point in my investigation did Gabrielle stop crying, breathing heavily, or writing a sentence without wiping away tears, wiping her nose or rubbing her knees with her hands," wrote police officer Daniel Robbins.
But police wanted to make sure Laundrie did not fall victim to battered boyfriend syndrome, so they took him to a hotel and made the couple promise to sleep in separate locations for the night. She disappeared weeks later.
“Gabby Petito's life would have had an incredibly different ending if the police who she met on the 12th or someone you know experienced this type of abuse ... you will know that when you are with an abuser, everything is you will do to defend him for the moment, because the alternative could be much worse. "
FBI agents begin taking evidence from Brian Laundrie's family home.
Octavio Jones / Getty
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As I write this, we have few solid facts. We know that human remains found near Grand Teton National Park may have come from Petito. We know the FBI is searching the home of her fiancé's family as part of a "court-approved search warrant," and we know he's now gone.
But although much remains unknown, many of us know what we are feeling. One woman wrote on Facebook: “We all know a Gabby Petito or we were her. Stuck in an abusive relationship with a man who keeps driving us crazy or looking crazy. ”There are thousands of such comments on social media - and at least as many internet detectives trying to solve the case before the FBI and other law enforcement agencies . It doesn't always end well, as we've seen time and time again.
However this story turns out, I hope that the people who follow it will begin to take seriously the "common" abuse of women and the all-too-common disappearances of women. And that law enforcement agencies and civilians alike are pausing and seriously thinking about how much more interest there is in solving crimes when it comes to attractive white women.
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