I am Gabby Petito. With one stark difference, I am alive. When I first watched the footage on the news last week, I was stunned. Transporting me back to March 2017, where I lived a very similar nightmare. Gabby’s demeanour and mannerisms resembled my own that fateful day. But what haunted me even more, was the words she used. The way she blamed herself, focusing only on herself and not on him. How she was crying so hard she could barely get words out, because it was hard enough to breathe. I know that feeling all too well. When you are so exhausted from so many hours of being berated and blamed. So much so you begin to question yourself and your intentions. I see that in her as I experienced that within myself.
My gut sank with the cops reactions, as they tried to decipher what was going on. To me it was a giant spotlight on the situation; it was so obvious. Frustration built inside of me as they didn’t try to ask her if she was safe, or if she was being abused in any way. I was so glad they separated them for that night, however looking back that could have been the breaking point, the stresser needed to snap. I feel numb, as though I don’t even have that much more to say here…though there are so many emotions and memories that flood me at the same time. Perhaps similar to an approaching tsunami, where you can barely do anything but stand and stare in amazement and utter horror at the same time.
I think about where I was 4.5 years ago, and how differently my situation could have turned out. Wondering where I would have been today if I hadn’t made that phone call. Just as I wonder where Gabby would be if she could have managed to get out. At the same time, I understand more than most. Part of my societal conditioning wants to believe that if she was stronger she could have gotten away, gotten herself out of that situation. But I also know how strong she was already, to simply endure what I know she was going through all too well. It is just as difficult to exist with any semblance of self in a dynamic where it is constantly questioned, criticized and made small and insignificant. That, you cannot properly explain in words, you can only experience to know it in its intensity and struggle.
For once, I thank this age of social media. For the generation younger than mine, who has plastered their lives all over the internet for the masses to see. Yes, us older folks can criticize that all we want for our many reasons we have to believe why it would or could be so wrong. However, in this situation I can do nothing but praise it. Praise the kids who posted about seeing their van parked at the end of August on their god damn TikTok of all places! Sharing critical evidence and leads all over their stories of Instagram, TikTok, whatever else there is out there thanks to the hashtags about Gabby, which have now garnered hundreds of millions of views. I can confidently say this investigation wouldn’t be where it is right now without it. And that, in a small way, makes me glad.
As horrible as I feel for Gabby, for her family, even for Brian…because I know how he must be hurting to have done something like this to the woman he loves. I am glad a case like this is on US National news, even garnering international attention now. It will better showcase what true emotional abuse looks like, for all of us that slip through the cracks of the system until its too late.
To all the warriors that sit here with me, watching in horror as we relive some of our worst moments. To those of us that got lucky, and got out. But mostly to all those who didn’t, and suffered the same fate as Gabby. I can only hope to look toward where this won’t have to happen anymore. Where those who are hurt can find it to heal, for them and for everyone.