Gabe Pettito was strangled. Experts say it’s common in intimate partner violence
Gabi Pettito died of suffocation. And while her case has opened a national debate about partner abuse, experts hope the tragedy highlights a grave danger: potential suffocation in domestic violence.
Strangulation is defined as killing someone by applying pressure to the throat. But a growing number of domestic violence experts believe that the term should be used more loosely to apply to situations where the incident is not fatal.
“When journalists use the term ‘strangulation’ correctly, they increase public knowledge of specific forms of abuse and acknowledge the dire short- and long-term consequences of this type of violence,” according to a media guide from Jane Doe Inc. Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence.
Experts say that assaults that seek to deprive someone of oxygen are more common than most people realize. Eve Valera, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who studies intimate partner violence and brain injury, said a woman who was assaulted in this way by a partner has a seven-fold risk of being killed by that partner.
“It’s one of the most frightening experiences that women tend to report in cases of intimate partner violence,” Valera said. “It’s really about power and control… It’s kind of like saying, ‘I can take your life at any moment.'” “
Pettito’s death was sentenced to death last month; On Tuesday, a coroner identified the cause of death as strangulation. A vlogger vlogger talking about her life on the road with boyfriend, Brian Laundry, has attracted worldwide attention after she disappeared in late August in Wyoming.
Since then Laundry has also disappeared. Police and the FBI cited previous reports of possible domestic violence while they were traveling together, calling him a “person of interest” in the case. He was not charged with her murder.
“Unfortunately, this is just one of the many deaths across the country of people involved in domestic violence, and it is unfortunate that these other deaths have not received as much coverage as this,” Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blow said on Tuesday. .
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Valera said that while it’s impossible to know for sure that Laundry had anything to do with Pettito’s murder, there have been red flags about violence in the relationship.
While the couple were in Utah, the Grand County Sheriff’s office issued a 911 call on August 12, in which the caller said he saw “the guy was slapping the girl.”
A video clip showed Pettit’s body crying during a police stop on the side of a highway. The footage shows a police officer talking to Laundry, who said the feud had been escalating between the two for several days, although authorities at the scene took no action other than telling the couple to separate overnight.
Intimate partner violence experts say there is a need to raise awareness of the dangers of potential suffocation. One way to take the issue more seriously is to differentiate between “strangulation” and “strangulation,” Lee Goodmark, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law where she teaches the Gender Violence Clinic, told me.
Valera noted that some victims of domestic violence may report being “strangled” because they believe the “strangulation” must be fatal or involve something like a rope or other restraint. This could lead to law enforcement and others in the judicial system taking the incident seriously.
Goodmark said choking is what you do with food. “Strangulation” in the context of discussing domestic violence is when someone uses their hands, another part of the body, or something to compress another person’s airway and restrict the flow of oxygen—fatal or not.
“When people say the word ‘choke,’ it really reduces the amount of damage that strangulation is doing and deliberately doing,” Goodmark said.
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In non-fatal cases, suffocation can lead to a number of symptoms, including hoarseness, shortness of breath, memory lapses, loss of consciousness, and even brain injury. Valera’s research indicated that brain injuries in cases of domestic violence are not uncommon.
“There are likely to be more women who have had recurrent injuries, or at least single ones, but mild TBIs from their partners than from professional athletes,” Valera said.
But evidence of strangulation does not always appear; Experts say that strangulation can lead to death without leaving any external effects on the body. This is why more education is needed on preventing choking and intimate partner violence.
“It’s such a stigma that people don’t want to admit it,” Valera said, stressing the need for societies to be aware of the risks.
More people need to realize that one case of potential strangulation from an intimate partner is a huge red flag for future murders, according to Goodmark.
“We really need to focus on prevention and education about what suffocation means in terms of future risks,” Goodmark said.
Valera said that intimate partner violence – and its intensity – during the coronavirus pandemic “has risen very, very dramatically.” This means that cases of women being strangled by their partners have certainly risen, Valera said. She said we should check on each other, because intimate partner violence can happen without anyone realizing.
“It’s always good to open up the conversation,” Valera said, “I know COVID has made things very stressful and bad for so many families and people. Do you feel secure in your relationship, is everything okay? ”