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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/21/21

Gabby Petito: A Young Life, an Early Death and Abuse

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FBI-Gabrielle Petito.
FBI-Gabrielle Petito.
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Julie Perkins Cantrell is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist who posted "Important Lessons Learned from Gabby and Brian" on her Facebook page.

She is referring to Gabby Petito, 22, who disappeared a couple of weeks ago while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, 23. The couple was touring western national parks and Gabby had created a popular blog.

She had continued to be in contact with her parents, who reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not speaking with her for two weeks. They said her last couple of texts seemed unusual and they suspect she did not make them.

In addition, a 911 caller reported seeing Laundrie slapping Petito.

Laundrie returned home to his parents' house in Florida where the couple had lived. He came back in her van, alone, on Sept. 1. He and his parents have refused to cooperate with police. Laundrie left his parents' home with a backpack several days ago and has not been seen since.

According to ABC News, on Sunday, a body "'consistent with the description of' "Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman who went missing while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, was discovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming." [Edit Tues. Sept 21, 8 pm Eastern: ABC reported that the remains have been positively identified as Petito's, and her death has been ruled a homicide.]

Julie Perkins Cantrell offers a treasure trove of wisdom in her Facebook post. Whether or not she has all the details figured out accurately regarding this situation with Gabby, Cantrell certainly has nailed the pattern of abuse perfectly.

As she notes, she's been there. So have I. In retrospect, the pattern is unmistakable. Abuse of women is a natural component of toxic patriarchy, so natural that both the abuser and the abused often cannot identify nor understand the pattern they are stuck in.

Nevertheless, it's time for all of us to begin to wake up. Here's a generous nudge from Julie:

As an author and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, I've learned a lot about the predictable patterns of unhealthy relationships. After years of personal experiences, research, and outreach, I've learned to recognize the tell-tale signs of abuse. I am not a licensed therapist, social worker, police officer, or minister. So please understand I shared my thoughts as 3 a.m. musings. When a few people asked me to make the post public, I agreed, reluctantly. I had no idea this message would resonate with so many people. I've worked back through the original post to explain a bit better how I'm feeling. I realize not everyone will agree with me, and I respect all opinions and views. All I ask is that we engage in respectful discourse on all sides. Thank you all.

In recent days, the tragic events involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie have given us a lot to learn. This case is still under investigation, and I can only make assumptions based on the textbook patterns of abuse I've witnessed too many times to count. I also recognize that multiple families are grieving, and I have tremendous empathy for everyone involved. However, many survivors will resonate with at least some of the following insights, and I'm hoping we can use this tragedy to shift the way we as a culture approach the complicated issue of domestic abuse.

Let's examine 30 important lessons this couple teaches us:

1. Followers on social media saw a smiling, happy couple, full of love and wanderlust, setting out for a cross-country adventure while documenting all the joys of young life. In many cases, targets become very good at smiling through the pain.

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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