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Culture > News

The Greater Tragedy Behind the Petito Case

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Agnes Scott chapter.

In late August of this year, 22-year-old Gabby Petito was reported missing by her mother. Petito had been on a “vanlife” road trip since July but had stopped responding to messages and posting on social media after a few weeks on the road. Petito, who was white, quickly became the spotlight of national media attention, and it seemed that everyone was staying updated on the case. 

Petito’s remains were found in Wyoming in September after weeks of searching. While this case is a tragedy in itself, there is another social issue intertwined with it; race and gender-based violence. 

In Wyoming between 2011-2020, 710 indigenous people were reported missing, according to the MMIP Taskforce of Wyoming. Of those reported, 57% were women. Additionally, Indigenous people comprise 21% of homicides in Wyoming, despite representing only 3% of the total population. An analysis by NPR reported that “these numbers could be underestimates.” This is due to the fact that Indigenous deaths can be misclassified, and because missing or murdered Indigenous individuals aren’t always reported to authorities due to mistrust between the Indigenous community and law enforcement. That being said, current estimates suggest that Indigenous people in Wyoming are at least eight times more likely to be victims of homicide than white residents. 

On top of suffering from higher rates of violence, cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous people often garner far less media attention than crimes with white victims. 51% of white homicide victims received media coverage, compared to only 31% of Indigenous victims. Cases involving Indigenous women receive even less attention, with only 18% getting media coverage.  

The Gabby Petito case is a textbook example of this. While her case quickly gained national attention and FBI involvement, it’s often a struggle for Indigenous communities to even get local law enforcement involved in cases, or even file their friends and family members as missing. While some cases of missing Indigenous individuals in Wyoming have gained more attention as a result of the Gabby Petito case, it should not take the murder of a white person to get officials to recognize violence against Indigenous individuals. 

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Sukainah Abid

Agnes Scott '23

I'm a 3rd year ASC student who is majoring in Literature and Creative Writing and minoring in Environmental Studies. I've spent the past two summers writing for newspapers in Georgia and Virginia, and have a particular interest in the environment, gender politics, and religious issues.