Have you heard of Gabby Petito? She’s a young woman who went on an adventure with her fiancé and somehow, somewhere, someway–it all went terribly wrong.
It was to be a trip to start their lives together. Gabby and her fiancé would travel across the U.S. on a great exciting trip. At one point, they had a fight that turned physical. This is all documented on body cameras worn by the police who were called to investigate. (Yes, even when you’re traveling and camping, other people witness things and act out of concern. In this instance a passerby saw the young couple arguing by the side of the road and called authorities to report it.)
We don’t know what happened, but weeks later Gabby’s body was found buried and her death ruled a homicide. The investigation is ongoing. When I see pictures of Gabby, I’m reminded of the many young women I know who could’ve found themselves in a similar position.
I’m not saying that an argument will lead to homicide. We don’t know the circumstances behind her death. What I am saying though is that situations can escalate and get out of control very fast.
What Can We Learn?
Such a beautiful smile and too young to be gone. The tragedy has a lesson that we need to share and learn.
We must presume innocence of all parties until prove otherwise but what I’d like to know is whether or not this couple had issues before they left on their trip.
Young people think of themselves as invincible but we all know the reality.
I’m not against young people going on a great adventure like Gabby did. She was 22 years old. Not a baby. We have no idea what happened or what other parties are involved. What we do know is that she and her fiancé fought on occasion and she didn’t come home.
Who knows, maybe she ran away and took a ride from a stranger or perhaps she walked off and got lost in the hills…Nothing is for certain, but now is the time to learn what love doesn’t look like and what to do about it.
I want to talk to those people who may be stuck in a relationship that has changed beyond their control.
Gabby’s story is incomplete as of yet and while she is not the subject, she is the catalyst.
Let’s Look at Perception Vs. Reality
The pictures of traveling across the country in a the cozy little truck evokes a sense of romance and longing to hit to the open road. It’s also a reminder that not all things presented are actually how they seem.
Being 24/7 with anyone can be difficult. There’ll be spats and hangry moments but it’s communication with the person you’re traveling with, and those at home, who can make the difference.
Gabby did regular posts on social media but like most posts we see online(or perhaps I should say–those shared via the media), are staged and uber happy and, dare I say, perfect. There’s always a big smile, the angles are flattering, and the locale great but we now know there was more going on behind the scenes.
Always remember, there is reality behind perception.
I’m not up on the statistics of Gabby’s relationship and how long she’d been engaged. She was a young woman who appeared happy, confident, and in control of her life. We have no idea what happened out there. The police released body-cam footage of a squabble but what’s behind it?
The one thing I know, is that if you’re involved in a relationship with anyone, it doesn’t take more than a month or two for them to show their true colors. I wonder how well Gabby and her fiancé knew each other….not the cute, sexy, cuddly side, but the darker, moody, ‘don’t-talk-to-me’ side.
I say this because it’s important to understand exactly what a partner may be telling you with their behavior and sometimes the messages are confusing.
This is for everyone regardless of gender or sexual identity.
Some Answers For Young People Everywhere
- Yes, those who identify as males can be victims of domestic abuse.
- If the person who love you hits you, there’ll be a lot of remorse and I’m sorry(s), but there will be a next time. This is a loop and the loop will get shorter before the next incident.
- If someone says they ‘wish you were dead’ or they’d like to ‘kill you’ —believe them.
- Age is not a factor in violent relationships. It can happen when you’re 14 or 41 or 81.
- You can not change anyone, fix them, or be “the only one” who truly understands. The issue is bigger than you.
- A change of scenery (like going on a trip) will not change anyones behavior–just the location. In fact, due to isolation, it may actually escalate abuse.
- If someone you love hits you, you have nothing to be ashamed of–it’s not your fault even if you yelled and screamed–I repeat–it is not your fault.
Knowing and learning about violence in relationships should be taught in school. Seriously, there’s so much crap that goes on and it can be difficult to maneuver when the mixed messages come fast and furious.
Believe me when I say that most young people don’t realize the danger or common attributes of domestic violence, gender based violence, manipulation, and verbal/mental abuse.
Does This Sound Familiar?
- One minute your partner is telling you how special and lovely you. Loving all over you.
- Then turns silent because someone paid you some attention.
- But you don’t know why they’re silent. Moodiness is their middle name.
- Your partner broods and pouts until finally they explode in anger at YOU.
- Taken off guard because you have no idea what happened, you shout back only to find yourself slapped across the face for your ignorance.
- There’s name calling. Maybe a fight with slaps exchanged between the two of you in frustration.
- Tears come just before the promises…It’ll never happen again–until the next time.
That type of behavior is all about the insecurities of the other person. The thing is, that even when you realize that, there’s nothing you can do to change it. You’ll constantly be on edge wondering what the other is thinking. Every step you take will be questioned, not only by them, but by you too. You’ll second guess everything. That’s not healthy and you’ll soon wear yourself down to a point where you’re no longer yourself.
Does This Sound Familiar?
- You’re all cuddled in on the couch to watch a movie.
- You leave your phone on the table and go to the bathroom.
- When you return you partner is scrolling through your phone.
- Before you even sit down they ask you: Who is this?
- You look. It’s a friend. You answer honestly.
- The other person keeps scrolling. Stopping and scanning.
- In the end, the phone is tossed on the table, and movie night continues.
If this ever happens to you then loud roaring bells and whistles should be going off. First of all, your partner has no right to scroll through your phone without your express permission. This is not only an invasion of privacy, but just downright rude. Afterwards, you may want to change the password and check to make sure a tracker was not put on your phone….seriously.
Neither does a partner have the right to go through your purse, your clothing, your room, your notes, your journals, or anything else.
These are controlling power-play moves. They’re not cute or sweet. It’s not about getting to know the ‘real’ you… it’s about getting into your head and making sure you’re not out of line.
Does This Sound Familiar?
- Your friends don’t like me so why should I make any effort?
- You always choose your friends over me. I thought I was supposed to be the most important person in your life.
- If you loved me then you’d want to spend time with me.
- Your family doesn’t like me.
- I want it to be just you and me.
- We’re better when we’re alone.
- Why do you belong to that club/sport/activity? It takes all the time away that we should be spending together.
- No one loves you the way I do.
- Don’t listen to what your friends want–they’re just jealous
If any of this sounds familiar then tell someone–an Auntie, a friend, a sister… The thing is that isolation isn’t healthy for anyone.
When a relationship first begins all a couple wants to do is be alone. I get that. Isolating behavior though, is different. This happens when the other doesn’t want you interacting with others–whether it be your friends, family, church, teammates…anyone. This leaves you totally dependent on your partner and they like that. This loss of independence is frightening as it takes away your support system and sounding boards.
This kind of behavior on the part of someone who says they love you is controlling and scary. It is not sexy or special. Can you trust me on this one?
How About This? Does This Ring Any Bells?
Has your partner ever said….
- I always knew you were selfish. You don’t love me.
- You’re lucky to have me because no one else wants you.
- I could do so much better but I feel sorry for you because you’re so plain/fat/stupid/ugly/undesirable…
- I’ve told you that before. It’s not my fault you’re too stupid to listen.
- I’ll tell everyone you hit me first and they’ll believe me because you’re a drunk.
- Everyone thinks you’re so perfect but you’re spoiled and ….
- No one will believe you anyway. They know what you are.
- Hey you started the fight and I’ve got the scratches to prove it.
- I could have anyone I wanted…anytime.
- You are mentally unstable.
- Everyone always told me I was too good for you…
The physical and the mental.
Go back and read those again and if your partner has said anything like that to you then get the hell out … now!
This is called gaslighting and it’s all about making the other person feel lesser-than, and is a form of abuse. It is highly manipulative and puts everything/all responsibility on the victim. The abuser is very good at making you feel like you’re going nuts. You’ll question everything you do and look suspiciously at those around you. If you’re treated like this, you need to get out of that relationship. No questions…Go.
Sorry. No Excuses or Blame Allowed
We often have a tendency to overlook negative behaviors, especially early in a romantic relationship. Things like shame, blame, and excuses are not acceptable. If your partner starts talking in tones that are: racist, sexist, narcissistic, or misogynistic, they are showing their true colors. Is that someone you want to be with? If someone is constantly blaming someone or something else for their behavior then they don’t accept responsibility for their actions.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- My dad beat me as a kid that’s why I’m so angry all the time.
- I can’t find a job because the foreigners take them all.
- I didn’t want to hit you. I told you to shut up like ten times.
- You know I don’t like the dark. You scared me and my fist just plowed you.
- Pfft… women ask for it.
- I wouldn’t have have been so angry if you didn’t wear such a short skirt.
- Hey, it’s not about what you want. You’re here to make me happy.
- It’s not cheating if we didn’t really have sex.
- You made me do it.
- After all I’ve done for you and all I want is a ….
- If you loved me you’d do…
Oh my, the list can go on and on. If any of these sound or feel familiar then talk to someone. A sister, an Auntie, a teacher, Pastor, or abuse hot-line.
You’re Never Alone
- Keep the lines of communication open with your friends and family. Always.
- Have a special CODE WORD that you can say in conversation that alerts someone if you’re in trouble. It can be a word or phrase… so long as the other knows.
- Make your code word/phrase memorable for the other party. Chances are you’ll never use it but what if you need it ten years down the road.
- Don’t tell everyone… maybe your sister and best friend. They’ll know.
- If you’re in a strange place, town, country and your partner wants to do an activity that makes you uneasy, then don’t do it. Stay in the safe location and phone home. Don’t worry about the details.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to police, Embassy, flight attendants, the lady working at the bank, the store clerk. There are decent people everywhere–don’t forget that.
- Listen to your gut. It’s usually right.
- Safety first.
Auntie Lesson: The media is a powerful tool and it doesn’t matter what you think about the news, the fact of the matter is that we can learn from other people’s stories. I wish much eventual Peace to Gabby’s family–the horror that they’re in right now is unfathomable. I hope Gabby’s story can save a young person in the future. When we think of romantic love we often think of that warm, safe person who holds our hand and our heart gently and tenderly. There’s a connection of spirit and a longing to be together. Love is not something that hurts, lies, manipulates, or abuses your person or psyche. Knowing the difference is paramount in developing long, strong, and satisfying relationships. Go back and read the entire post… Always remember, you deserve the best.
In North America: in an emergency call 9-1-1
- Assaulted Women’s Helpline
Toll-free TTY: 1-866-863-7868
- Ask questions.
- Research your area and find the number nearest you or your destination. Set the number in your phone under “Auntie” so the number is always there but unidentifiable.
- Be Safe.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to like, comment, share, and follow.