The Gabby Petito Story is Increasing Awareness of Domestic Violence
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Along with increasing the awareness of domestic violence, which impacts 12 million people in the US every year, is the awareness of the need for trauma recovery in the individual law enforcement and nurses, healthcare professionals who care for this traumatized population. The Gabby Petito Foundation has partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline to provide funds for increasing the number of operators who respond to calls due to the overwhelming number of calls since the death of Gabby a year ago. The cause of death was strangulation by her boyfriend.
Even though her death was not prevented and she was not found alive, the bystanders who witnessed her being hit multiple times on the face and head, must be recognized and applauded, for making those calls to 911. What they witnessed was being felt in their own bodies. That is how we are wired, to feel fear when we witness a terrifying event. We experience the event in our bodies as if it happened to us.
The failure of the law enforcement officers to spend time with the witnesses who made the call, interviewing them, was a missing step in possibly saving Gabby. So much information is in that field of awareness. We are connected and our nervous systems are very aware of what feels synchronized, and what feels out of sync.
Victims of domestic violence feel isolated.
That is a classic characteristic, and the abuser often enhances that feeling of isolation, in many ways. Gabby was far away from home, family, and friends. They camped in very off the beaten path campsites.
Gabby’s family has created the Gabby Petito Foundation, and have partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This is also a step that was missed by the law enforcement who spoke with Gabby at the time of the 911 calls. There was no referral made to a Domestic Violence Hotline, nor were there pictures taken of Gabby’s injuries.
Looking at this through a trauma informed lens
As with all trauma informed policies and practices, the providers themselves are often not aware of personal unintegrated trauma. This is difficult because we live in a collective trauma culture, with inherited generations of unintegrated trauma. Our teachers, institutions, systems of education and healthcare, our parents, and communities are established in a culture of collective trauma. So we think living in fight or flight is normal. It is the water we swim in. We are not aware of the moments we do not see and hear. We turn our heads.
Moving beyond trauma informed care, law enforcement officers, as well as nurses, who provide that care are not aware of their own trauma eruptions. If this is resonating with you, I hope you reach out and we can explore if trauma recovery coaching may be beneficial, noticing and listening to your nervous system being on the edge of reacting, increasing the capacity to respond rather than react. A victim of domestic violence experiences an average of seven incidents of abuse before they leave the relationship for good. If the victim has experienced being choked, the chances of being killed by her intimate partner increases seven times. Feelings of isolation are a common characteristic that prevents victims from making the call to the Domestic Violence Hotline. Those who are paying attention may place that call, and be guided as to how to remain supportive and offer concern. Healing from trauma happens in relationship, the presence of a coherent synchronized nervous system. This is the support needed by a person who is a victim of Domestic Violence, even if unable to speak. Being present is healing, but being fully present is not always easy without individual trauma recovery.
If you are experiencing Domestic Violence or are concerned for someone you know, call National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800.799.SAFE or [https://www.thehotline.org](link)
Find more resources for help at https://gabbypetitofoundation.org
If you see something that feels threatening, say something. Be the bystander who makes the call to 911 when you bear witness to violent acts.