Gabby Petito died of suffocation. And while his case has opened up a national conversation about partner abuse, experts hope the tragedy will shed light on a serious danger: the potential suffocation in domestic violence.
Killing someone by strangulation is called suffocation. But a growing number of domestic violence experts believe the term should be applied to situations where the incident is not fatal.
“When journalists use the term ‘suffocation’ correctly, they raise public awareness of a specific type of abuse and acknowledge the serious short- and long-term consequences of such violence,” according to a media guide from Jane Doe Inc. .
Attacks that try to deprive someone of oxygen are more common than most people think, experts say. According to Dr. Eve Eve Valera, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, a woman who has been abused by a partner is seven times more likely to be abused by a partner who studies intimate partner violence and brain injury.
“This is one of the most horrific experiences that women report in situations of intimate partner violence,” Valera said. “It’s really a matter of power and control. It’s kind of like saying, ‘I can take your life at any moment.'”
Petito’s death was considered a homicide last month; On Tuesday, a coroner said the cause of death was suffocation. The Vlogger video journal of her life on the street with her boyfriend Brian Laundry after she went missing in late August in Wyoming attracted worldwide attention.
The laundry has since disappeared. Police and the FBI have named him as an “interested person” in the case, citing previous reports of possible domestic violence while traveling together. No charges have been filed against him in connection with his murder.
“Unfortunately this is one of many deaths involving domestic violence across the country and it is unfortunate that these other deaths did not receive such coverage,” said Dr. Teton County Coroner. Brent Blue said Tuesday.
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While it’s impossible to know for sure that Laundry had anything to do with Petito’s murder, there was a red flag about violence in the relationship, Valera said.
While the couple was in Utah, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office released a call on Aug. 12, 911, in which the caller said he witnessed “the gentleman slapping the girl.”
Body camera video showed Petito breaking down in tears as police stopped on the side of a highway. The footage showed a police officer talking to Laundry, who said there had been friction between the two for several days, although authorities at the scene took no action other than telling the couple to stay apart for the night.
Intimate partner violence experts say there is a need to be more aware of the potential risk of suffocation. One way to take the problem more seriously is to distinguish between “suffocating” and “suffocating,” said Lee Goodmark, a professor in the law school at the University of Maryland, where he teaches the Gender Violence Clinic.
Some victims of domestic violence may report that they have been “suffocated” because they think the “suffocation” must be fatal or involve objects such as ropes or other restraints, Valera noted. As a result, law enforcement and others in the judiciary may take the incident less seriously.
Goodmark said, what you do in food is suffocation. In the context of discussing domestic violence, “suffocation” is when someone uses their hands, other body parts or objects to constrict another person’s airways and restrict the flow of oxygen – severely or non-fatally.
“When people say‘ suffocation ’, it really suffocates and reduces the amount of damage done to its purpose,” Goodmark said.
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In unwanted cases, suffocation can cause a number of symptoms, including roaring, shortness of breath, memory loss, loss of consciousness, and even trauma to the brain. Valera’s research indicates that brain injury is not uncommon in cases of domestic violence.
“There are probably a lot of women who are more recurrent than professional athletes, or at least unmarried, but probably have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries from their partners,” Valera said.
But evidence of suffocation is not always seen; Experts say that suffocation can even lead to death without leaving any external marks on the body. This is why greater education is needed to prevent suffocation and close partner violence.
“It’s so stigmatized that people don’t want to admit it,” Valera said, emphasizing the need to be aware of the risks to the community.
According to Goodmark, more people need to be aware that an example of possible suffocation from an intimate partner is a huge red flag for future killings.
“We really need to focus on prevention and education in terms of what it means to face suffocation in terms of your future risks,” Goodmark said.
During the coronavirus epidemic, close partner violence – and its severity – was “skyrocketing,” Valera said. This means that the incidence of suffocation of women by their peers must have increased, Valera said. He said we should test each other, because no one understands that intimate partner violence can happen.
“It’s always good to keep the conversation open, ‘I know Covid has made things very stressful and bad for a lot of families and people. Do you feel safe in your relationship, is everything alright?’