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Gabby Petito: One year later and the discussion of domestic violence

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Posted at 8:08 PM, Aug 27, 2022

CHARLOTTE CO., Fla. — Today marks one year since the death of Gabby Petito.

Her story made national headlines and the search for answers ended near Southwest Florida in North Port.

In honor of Gabby, her family is asking everyone to take a moment tonight after the sun goes down to light up the night. They're asking for you to light a candle or turn on your porch lights or whatever you can do to shine a light for victims of domestic violence.

Gabby Petito: One year later and the discussion of domestic violence

Petito went missing after going on a cross-country road trip with her fiance Brian Laundrie. It wasn't until Laundrie came back home to North Port without Petito that their case started making headlines. Petito would not be seen again after an encounter with Moab Police as her body was found September 19 on the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Laundrie later killed himself in Florida, leaving behind a notebook that authorities said contained a confession.

The story has sparked the discussion of domestic violence and how to spot the warning signs.

"We work on stabilizing them emotionally and financially so that they can see that there is a path forward.”

Alyssa Burns is with C.A.R.E. of Charlotte County. The group helps victims of domestic violence, abuse and other violent crimes.

“Right now is going to be very hard, emotionally and physically," says Burns, the Director of Domestic Violence Programs at the center. "But you’re going to be in a different place a year from now and we’re going to help you get there.”

But coming forward isn’t always easy. As Burns says, there are all sorts of pressures that can be overwhelming.

"Though being in a domestic violence relationship is clearly more dangerous and detrimental, sometimes it’s a lot easier than trying to extract yourself.”

Burns also talks about red flags that could be signs of an unhealthy relationship. The first is the relationship moving too quickly. There are also isolating factors where the person inflicting the harm does not want you to be with friends or family. They start criticizing the things you enjoy, Burns says.

The biggest challenge, Burn says, is a victim feeling like they don’t have any options. Physical abuse is dangerous but the mental and emotional abuse — as Burns says — has more of an impact over time.

Something authorities noticed in the Gabby Petito case.

"Trying to mitigate and cover things up and take the blame for herself, which is a very common occurrence for our victims. Half the time they believe it and the other half the time they’re trying to keep themselves safe from when law enforcement leaves.”

Helping victims has taken great strides in recent years, Burns says. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.

"We have more funding now to get them into housing for legal services with attorneys," said Burns. "Just recognizing there is a dynamic to domestic violence.”

You can find more information about C.A.R.E. online right here.