Heartland domestic violence expert identifies signs of abuse between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 5:52 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Gabby Petito’s case brings more attention to the ongoing domestic violence problem in the U.S.

The CDC reports one in four women have experienced some type of violence from their partner.

And one Heartland expert we spoke with explained how the couple’s dispute stop in Utah shows signs of abuse.

“I would like to report a domestic dispute, there was a white van, Florida license plate, white van,” a witness said in a phone call to police.

This call from a witness in Utah led Moab Police to stop Gabby Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie on the side of the road to investigate the situation.

“What were they doing,” an officer asked.

”We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the witness said.

“He was slapping her,” the officer asked.

“Yes, and then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk, he proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off,” the witness said.

Andrea Stephens is the domestic violence program coordinator at The Women’s Center in Carbondale.

From her experience working with victims, she knows what warning signs to look for in relationships.

“I’m sorry that I’m so mean,” Gabby Petito said in police body cam footage from August.

“Right there she explains that she was apologizing to him for being so mean and for the issues that were occurring,” Stephens said.

She said it’s common for a victim to take fault even when they aren’t in the wrong.

“If they don’t, after the police leave or after all these other bystanders leave, they’re going to pay the price for not trying to take fault for it,” she said.

She encouraged anyone in a relationship to look for the warning signs in the beginning of dating.

“Maybe commenting on how you dress, commenting on the friends you have, starting to control the activities that you do,” she said.

If you’re a bystander of friend of someone in an abusive relationship, she encouraged you to support the victim.

“Don’t give them ultimatums that if they don’t leave the person, I won’t talk to you anymore, I’ll cut you off financially, that’s already happening to them by the person that they’re in this relationship with that’s perpetrating violence on them,” she said.

Stephens is hopeful Petito’s case can be an eye opener for anyone who is in a similar situation.

“Reach out, talk to trusted friends and family, especially friends,” she said.

If you or your loved one is experiencing domestic violence, you can call the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

The hotline for The Women’s Center is 1800-334-2094.

It serves women, men, adolescents and children in eight counties.

All of the counseling and services they offer are free.

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