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Growing up it is endlessly reiterated to girls the importance of being careful around men we don’t know and being cautious of our surroundings. This fear is embedded into our lifestyle from a very young age. The tragic death of Gabby Pettito, a 22 year old woman from Florida, sparked a nationwide outrage and shock and opened the door to many conversations that needed to be reignited. 

The Gabby Petito case happened right in front of our eyes in the height of the digital world. Gabby and her fiance, Brain Laundrie, were known for their TikToks and Youtube videos highlighting their “van life”. Gabby and Brian took on a 4 month camping trip with nothing but themselves and Gabby’s van. They both uploaded several pictures and videos to their social media accounts throughout their trip. Gabby had kept constant communication with her family via facetime and texts throughout the span of their trip up until August 27th. On September 1st, Brain Laundrie returned to Florida without his fiance and refused to speak to her family or the police about her whereabouts. On September 11, Gabby was officially declared a missing person. The case began to gain national media attention and everyone on social media was talking about the disappearance of Gabby Petito.

After coming back to Florida without his fiance, Brian refused to provide any information to anyone to help in the ongoing investigation, and eventually Brian also disappeared and has still not been found. On September 21st, remains found near the Grand Tetons were confirmed to be Gabby Petito and her death was ruled a homicide. On October 12th, it was finally revealed to the public that the cause of death was strangulation and that she was dead already for about 3-4 weeks when her body was found. A federal grand jury indicted Brian Laundry, issuing an arrest warrant for an unauthorized accessed device. They are alleging that he illegally used her debit or credit card AFTER her date of death. It’s important to note that this is still not an arrest warrant on her murder. Once the autopsy lists the manner of death as a homicide, and they can roughly pinpoint the time of death, as a deceased person she cannot allow anything. Meaning, anything Brian uses that belongs to Gabby after her time of death, is considered a criminal violation. As of now, Brian’s whereabouts are still unknown which leads many answers to the Gabby Petitio case as speculation. 

Personally, the saddest piece of the Gabby Petito tragedy is not only that it happened and no one was able to save her, but rather that collectively we’re not surprised. Women in violent and abusive relationships being potentially killed by their partner is not something new to our society. Social media has driven this case to a whole other level with people on TikTok formulating theories and conducting their own in depth investigations into several clues and key factors to this case. Some of the most important pieces that have come to light are different instances of dispute and tension between the couple on this trip despite what their social media profiles portrayed. The couple was pulled over by police on August 12th for a domestic dispute. After the body cam footage was released, many people took to social media to note that Gabby’s appearance and behavior in the video was one consistent with reactive abuse. Like many people and many couples, Gabby and Brian had a heavy digital print. Constantly showcasing their relationship in this positive and happy light, when in reality we now know that was not the case. A big takeaway from this tragedy is to understand that social media is not reality. Lots of victims in abusive relationships hide behind this facade, and Gabby unfortunately did not get the chance to ever escape this relationship. 

As women, we are taught from an early age to not walk alone anywhere alone at  night, carry pepper spray, be aware of our surroundings, lock our doors, etc. the list is endless. With stories like Gabbys it’s important that women check on each other and look out for one another. It’s important that we hold our male friends accountable for their actions.  Sometimes our biggest fear isn’t a stranger, it’s someone we know and love just like it was for Gabby. 

Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-500-1119

Florida Relay 711

https://www.womenslaw.org/find-help/fl

The FBI is asking the public to contact 1-800-CALL-FBI with tips concerning Brian Laundrie or any information regarding the death of Gabby Petitio.

I'm a senior at FIU, majoring in Criminal Justice on the Pre-Law track. My goal is to one day go to law school and become a lawyer. I love to read mystery and thriller books that keep me guessing. I am an advocate for our generation being a catalyst to social justice. You could say Elle Woods is who I channel in life.
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