SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – As the City of Moab investigates the actions of their officers handling the Gabby Petito case in the city, anti-domestic violence advocates and the former police chief say the officers did everything right under Utah law.
These advocates say intimate partner violence can be difficult to recognize consistently.
Nina Angelo was at a restaurant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on August 27. She spoke with ABC4 about running into Petito and Brian Laundrie.
“His demeanor, the way he was acting, how persistent he was, he, he freaked me out,” says Angelo. “She was emotional. She was crying. She seemed kind of embarrassed.”
What Angelo is talking about is something Allies with Families Executive Director Jenn Oxborrow picked up on while watching the couple on police body camera footage on August 12.
“That is one of the first things I noticed in the body camera footage, was normalizing and the minimizing. It is very scary,” says Oxborrow. ” It’s hard to respond to intimate partner violence consistently and recognize all of the various risk factors because it’s such a complicated situation.”
Oxborrow says these are not so obvious risk factors because of fear.
“I’ve worked with people who perpetrated domestic violence and it never happens out the blue. There is lots of risk factors, lots of history of aggression ramping up. And, van life can be stressful,” she says.
According to Oxborrow, here are some of the signs of intimate partner violence:
- Lack of contact with family or friends
“I think trying to keep up with that identity, and the influencer, the perfect life, and adventure that was being cultivated there can really be isolating,” says Oxborrow. “Isolation is something that an abusive partner really tries to use as a manipulation tactic. That can be very frustrating to an abusive partner, that they can’t fully isolate you because you have this following.”
When it comes to the couples stress Oxborrow says, “Stress seemed to be escalating for them and it looks like it’s an adventure, it looks like a vacation, it’s supposed to be downtime, but they were trying to solve a lot of problems and were in a lot of stressful situations.”
What Petito experienced is something many Utah families are experiencing now. Thursday, Utah officers arrested more than a dozen people for domestic violence.
“We see this at Allies, with about 60 percent of the families we are working with,” Oxborrow adds.
Experts say the most important thing people need to remember is not to get in the middle of a domestic violence situation that will compromise your safety.
With the Petito case, advocates say calling police was the important.
“Those bystanders who called did a great job,” says Oxborrow. “It is really important to let people know when you hear something or something feels off.”