This past Tuesday, it was announced by a Wyoming coroner that Gabby Petito, 22, died by strangulation, which experts say is a lesser-known sign of intimate partner violence.
“Strangulation is not talked about as much, but it is a major risk factor for intimate partner homicide,” an associate professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Kellie Lynch, told “Good Morning America.” “And we often see it occur alongside more severe abuse.”
“When you’re talking about strangulation, that is very typically the cause of death in domestic violence cases,” Dan Abrams, ABC News chief legal analyst, said in an interview Wednesday. “It is angry. It is violent. It takes time. That is precisely what many believe happened here.”
Petito’s death was ruled a homicide and the cause is officially listed as “manual strangulation/throttling,” per the coroner. Petito’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, has been named by investigators as a person of interest in her death and is the subject of a massive nationwide search being directed by the FBI.
And while the search continues for Laundrie, it should be noted he is also wanted on charges of bank fraud for allegedly using Petito’s credit card.
Experts said strangulation is also a predictor for future deadly violence.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a non-fatal strangling in the past by a partner makes the victim 10 times more likely to be killed by them later on.
“I think people are now starting to appreciate the seriousness of strangulation, both that it’s more frequent than we realize and also that it can be more lethal than we realize,” Kiersten Stewart, director of public policy and advocacy of Futures Without Violence, stated.
“When we train health care providers, strangulation is one of the very specific issues that we talk about to help them recognize it.”
According to experts, strangulation in cases of intimate partner violence is usually about control, and in non-fatal cases, it may not leave a substantial mark compared to other forms of physical abuse, experts said.
“Domestic violence is still a very serious issue,” said Stewart, revealing young people between the ages of 18 and 24 experience the highest rates of domestic violence. “As a country, we have made great progress in the last 25 years, but we haven’t actually reduced homicides nearly as dramatically, and that still needs to be a real focus.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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