The Gabby Petito case has captured the nation’s attention, but now it’s also shining a spotlight on domestic violence in America.
Bodycam footage of the couple being stopped by police, days before Petito was murdered, is now raising concerns among victim advocates that the incident showed clear signs of serious domestic stress.
On Wednesday, CBS12 News Reporter Stefany Valderrama sat down with an expert who analyzed the footage.
“Do you believe this was textbook domestic violence?” Asked CBS12 News Reporter Stefany Valderrama.
“It’s really difficult to tell,” answered Jennifer Rey, Program Services Director of Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, Inc.
What Rey does see in the police bodycam footage are signs Petito may have been a victim of domestic violence.
It’s very common for victims of domestic violence to be the ones who appear upset, overwhelmed, [and] maybe sometimes chaotic,” Rey said. “Not really telling clear stories, because sometimes trauma impacts a person’s ability to recant the information.
In the footage, Petito continually apologizes for the things she’s done which have upset her fiance Brian Laundrie. Rey tells CBS12 News she also minimizes his behavior which is common among victims who want to avoid retaliation from abusive partners after law enforcement has left the scene.
In watching the footage, Rey also notes Laundrie’s behavior when interacting with law enforcement.
“It’s very typical for perpetrators of domestic violence to be very cool, calm, and collected,” she told CBS12 News. “Which you seen him really maintain through the entire process.”
Rey does commend the officers for how they responded. She tells CBS12 News the fact officers separated the couple to talk to them individually shows they have had training in how to deal with possible incidents of domestic violence. As does the fact they worked with their partners to make accommodation to separate the couple for the night.
Locally, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office tells CBS12 News deputies do undergo training to spot and properly respond to domestic violence calls.
Rey says the couple’s behavior in the footage is concerning, it did not appear to be at crisis level at the time.
However, Rey points out the reality is domestic violence always escalates over time, especially if there are no consequences for the perpetrator.
According to the CDC, 1 in 3 women are victims of intimate partner abuse.
On Tuesday, Petito’s death was ruled a homicide, and while Laundrie is on the run, investigators have not made the determination she was a victim of domestic violence.