‘She’s completely isolated’: Local domestic violence advocates weigh in on Petito case, violence in community

SPOKANE, Wash. — A young woman was found dead in Wyoming after a cross-country road trip with her fiance. While the trip seemed like a dream on social media, it’s a nightmare that sheds light on a growing crisis in the country.

The CDC says one in three women have experienced intimate partner violence. That number is one in 10 for men. It’s an even bigger concern in Spokane County.

“Spokane County actually has the highest reported rate of domestic violence in the state of Washington,” said Jemma Riedel, the Education and Outreach Advocate for YWCA Spokane.

She says there’s an estimated 13,000 reports in the county every year.

Gabby Petito’s murder is bringing to the forefront this issue in America.

“It looks really great. It looks like this great road trip, but the reality is she’s completely isolated,” said Annie Murphey, Executive Director for the Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition. “She has social media and a phone and that’s it.”

Investigators identified her body on Tuesday in Wyoming. Her fiance, Brian Laundrie, is missing but returned home without her. They were on a cross-country road trip, documenting their journey extensively on social media. The couple seemed happy, but there were red flags.

Police pulled them over after a concerned citizen called police and said Laundrie was hurting her.

“We drove by, and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller said. “He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off.”

Police questioned the couple but let them go, and Petito never came home. Riedel says the trip could have contributed to the issues.

“Isolation can start really innocently. Our partner tells us they want to spend more time with you, doesn’t that sound great,” she said. “What happens is we get more and more isolated and we’re not speaking with our friends and family with as much regularity, so we don’t have people checking in on us.”

Riedel says checking in on friends and family is essential, and you can look for certain signs if you think someone could be in a dangerous situation.

Here’s what to watch for:

  • Physical marks or injuries
  • If the partner seems jealous or insecure
  • If the person isn’t enjoying activities or hobbies they used to

“We really want to start with listening and believing them. We want to be there with them. we want to let them know that they do not deserve to be abused that they are not causing it, it’s not their fault,” Riedel said.

While Petito’s case is bringing violence to the forefront, it affects people from all walks of life.

“Gabby was found in Wyoming,” Murphey said. “There are hundreds of women in Wyoming from the indigenous community who are missing.”

October is National Domestic Violence Action Month. Both the YWCA and the Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition will have events to spread awareness and education.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence you are not alone. There are local resources at the YWCA and Lutheran Community Services. You can also call the YWCA Helpline for support at 509-326-2255.

READ: Are you a victim of domestic violence? Here’s how to get help

RELATED: Coroner IDs remains, says Gabby Petito was homicide victim