Gabby Petito’s disappearance prompts discussions on domestic violence

Reporter: Nicole Gabe Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:

Emotional, upset and having a hard time catching her breath.

That is how 22-year-old Gabby Petito appeared in bodycam footage taken on Aug. 12 as she spoke to a police officer in Moab, Utah after an onlooker called the police to report a fight she had with her fiancé Brian Laundrie.

Almost a month later, Petito was reported missing by family after Laundrie returned to his North Port home without her. A week and one day later, her remains were discovered in Grand Teton National Park.

Laundrie is now a wanted fugitive for unauthorized use of a debit card.

Instagram and YouTube paint a different picture, one of happiness where Petito poses for the camera, seemingly in love with Laundrie.

But what was really happening when there were no cameras.

“Domestic violence is, it’s a very subtle thing,” said Linda Oberhaus, CEO for the Shelter for Abused Women and Children.

Oberhaus said there were signs in the video of an unhealthy relationship.

“If these abusers hit victims on the first date, no one would ever date these guys,” Oberhaus said. “They tend to show up very charming, they tend to be narcissistic. And it’s sort of gradual and very progressive.”

Petito’s friend called Laundrie possessive.

And often, when relationships go wrong, the question becomes how come no one said or did anything?

“How could we have intervened? What could we have done to potentially save her life? But I can tell you that many victims, they don’t realize the grave danger they’re in. Some do, but many don’t,” Oberhaus said. “They don’t actually believe that that person would ever take it that far. And they do.”

The biggest question becomes, why didn’t she leave?

“There’s a fair amount of victim-blaming that happens from well-meaning family members and friends and so forth. But leaving a domestic violence relationship is not easy. And it can be very scary,” Oberhaus said.

In an interview with Dr. Phil, Petito’s father Joseph Petito said he didn’t see any signs.

“There were no red flags that stuck out. Nothing that popped in my head that, said, listen to this boy is not a good boy. If there were I would have discouraged (her) from going on the trip,” Joseph Petito said.

But abusers and victims don’t have a description.

“You’ll hear the neighbors say, well, you know, he was such a great guy, because that’s really the face that these abusers, that’s the face that they show the world but behind closed doors, it’s a whole different deal” Oberhaus said.

Instead of asking why doesn’t she leave, Oberhaus challenges society to ask another question.

“Ask, you know, why does he abuse? Why does he batter the people that he’s supposed to love him and protect,” she said.


Both men and women can be victims of abuse.

If you are in an abusive relationship and want to leave your partner, Oberhaus said it is important to have a plan in place. Get in contact with a shelter that can help.

The Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Naples can be reached at 239-775-1101.

Abuse, Counseling & Treatment Inc. in Lee County can be reached at 239-939-3112

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233.


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