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Clip From Body Cam Video Shows How Much Gabby Petito Feared Being Away From Brian Laundrie — And Why It's Relatable To So Many Women

Photo: YouTube
Gabby Petito Brian Laundrie

Body cam footage taken by police responding to a domestic incident between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie paints a devastatingly relatable picture of their relationship.

The footage was taken on August 12, after a witness called 911 and claimed to have seen Laundrie hitting and slapping Petito. 

We had previously seen footage of Laundrie explaining that Petito had gotten physical with him, leading police to label her the aggressor. 

The new body cam footage shows Gabby Petito explaining the dispute with Brian Laundrie.

The footage is from the body camera of another officer on the scene who approaches Petito and asks if Laundrie had hit her. 

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"You slapped him first? And just on his face?" Pratt can be heard asking Petito. "Well, he kept telling me to shut up," Petito responds.

"Did he hit you, though? I mean, it's OK if you're saying you hit him, and then I understand if he hit you, but we want to know the truth if he actually hit you, because you know...," Pratt says.

However, it is a clip much later in the footage that appears particularly concerning given what we know about the weeks that followed. 

When officers decided to separate the couple for the night, by taking Laundrie to a nearby motel and leaving Petito in the van, Petito is visibly upset and appears to almost panic at the thought. 

Petito asks the responding officers not to separate her from Laundrie, saying "like we're a team, please. It's going to give me so much anxiety. Can we just have, like, a driving ticket?"

She pleads with the officer, begging to be given a fine instead of having to spend a night away from Laundrie. 

Petito’s anxiety is prevalent throughout this footage, and in clips from the body cameras of other officers. 

She is anxious about the dirt in the van, anxious about her YouTube channel, anxious about interacting with police. 

Women who are or have been in toxic, abusive or manipulative relationships will likely relate to this. 

Petito’s anxiety in the footage is overwhelming, life-disrupting, as if it were caused by something larger.

Living in abusive situations often means being constantly on edge, fretting over small things that could trigger large reactions from your abuser. 

Mindy Murphy, president of The Spring of Tampa Bay, a non-profit domestic violence support group, says police likely misread the situation by calling Petito the aggressor. 

"Gabby was hyperventilating, she was distraught, she was overwhelmed by what was happening and Brian was calm and collected," Murphy said, adding that Laundrie's composure can be a sign of control and is a common trait of abuse.

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Petito’s fear of being away from Laundrie might seem counterintuitive to some. If he was abusive, wouldn’t she relish in a night away from him? 

Probably not. In fact, the opposite is often true. 

As a trauma reaction, abuse survivors often remain hypervigilant of their partner’s moods and reactions. 

For those living with abusive partners, it can be less anxiety-inducing to keep their abuser present, where they can watch them and anticipate their reactions instead of being away from them and feeling out of control.  

Petito appears to feel responsible for Laundrie and for the situation they find themselves in, which resembles a common tactic used by abusers to make their victims feel blame for their abuse. 

Petito may be fearful that Laundrie could get in trouble, another fear abused women deal with often.

"A lot of times people who have been victimized, they don't want something bad to happen to their partner," Murphy said. "They just want them to stop being abusive and stop using power and control."

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Then there is the painful reality that leaving an abuser, whether it’s for a night or a lifetime, is one of the biggest risks a survivor can take. 

Up to 75% of abuse victims who are murdered by their partner were killed after they left their abuser. 

For women like Petito, spending a night away from their partner could invoke a much more violent reaction from an abuser. 

Instead of resolving the issue in front of police, Petito was now facing the prospect of reuniting with Laundrie without police present and after emotions had festered overnight.

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Having Laundrie leave her appears to be a trigger for Petito. She told the police that much. 

The argument reportedly started with Petito desperately trying to get in her van — almost as if she knew Laundrie was capable of leaving her alone in the middle of nowhere. 

Then, when faced with being apart from him, she panics once again at the knowledge that Laundrie would be leaving her. 

Now, it appears her fears about Laundrie leaving her were even more dire than anyone could have imagined on August 12. 

Petito’s emotions on that day may reflect a reality that many women will relate to, being all at once fearful of being with your partner and fearful of being without them.

This reality is what traps many in abusive situations, feeling like there is no safe way out. 

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Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.