What happens behind closed doors?

Laynie Clark, Assistant Arts & Life Editor

The most charming, funny, charismatic man in my life also happened to be the most dangerous. He could make you laugh until you cried, but he could also beat you until you bled. I witnessed this more than any child should when he would take aim on my mother and harm her until she felt nothing. This was a nightly occurrence in my household and it caused me to fear the night because it seemed like everything bad happened when the moon came out. Being the eldest child I felt that it was my responsibility to care for my sisters whenever our father lost his temper. The screaming would start and that would be my cue to grab my sisters, run outside and call the cops. After a while, I stopped calling the police because it was clear that domestic violence cases were not a big deal on their radar. My father was arrested for it more times than I can count, but he was always released within that week and was sent right back into the home that feared his return. He would return, be apologetic for a few days, and then resume as his usual threatening self.   

This was my life, and I thought this was normal. Unfortunately, this is how it is for the majority of domestic violence victims like Gabby Petito, a figure whom many of us are mourning. Gabby was a 22-year-old woman whose remains were recently recovered near a campground in Grand Teton National Park because she thought her situation was normal. She had recently quit her job as a nutritionist to follow her dream as a travel blogger. Her fiance, Brian Laundrie, purchased a van and decided to travel the country with her. They were visiting a bunch of the different national parks and monuments while Gabby documented the trip on various social media platforms. Gabby’s online presence presented a happy couple’s road trip: but a police officer’s body cam said otherwise.

In Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12, Brian and Gabby got pulled over in their van while on the road to their next destination. They were stopped because someone had witnessed a physical altercation between the couple that morning. The cop’s body cam footage was uploaded on YouTube for millions of people to watch. In the video, Gabby was visibly distraught: the officers had her step out of the car while Brian remained in the driver’s seat. Gabby explained that she was upset because they had been fighting all morning as Brian was frustrated with her for having OCD and for always being in a bad mood. Throughout the video, Gabby continues to degrade herself and dismiss his behavior all while Brian is conversing and laughing with another officer who arrived on the scene. To anybody who has never experienced domestic violence firsthand, it might have seemed like Gabby was just overreacting to a mundane argument. But to those of us who know the signs, it is clear that this situation was much more. Brian’s actions and reactions in the video clearly demonstrate that he is a narcissist. 

People typically underestimate narcissists, assuming that they are harmless individuals who possess a somewhat unhealthy dose of self-admiration. In actuality, narcissists can be dangerous menaces to society. Narcissists believe that they can do no wrong and that everyone should be at their mercy. It is by far one of the scariest mental health illnesses that someone can have because they become destructive to themselves and to everyone surrounding them. The way he carried himself in the body cam video—like he was untouchable— is a clear sign of narcissism. The so-called “love of his life” was five feet away breaking down because she felt like she was the worst fiance while Brian was laughing and conversing with the officers that just pulled him over. He proved how little he cared about her in that moment, which leads people to believe that he never cared about her behind closed doors either. In most cases, the narcissist will scream and belittle their significant other while they just absorb everything that the narcissist is saying: that way if people question them they will more than likely place the blame on themselves rather than the narcissist. Narcissists love to make those around them feel insignificant, which is exactly what Gabby was feeling when she was explaining the situation in the video. This body cam video clearly demonstrated signs of domestic violence, yet the officers dismissed it. Though, I am willing to bet they regret that decision now.

On Sept. 1, Brian returned to his hometown in Florida — where he had resided with Gabby — without her. Brian would not speak to anyone: especially when it regarded Gabby. Almost two weeks later, Gabby’s parents filed a missing persons report. Instantly, the world is shaken. Most immediately assumed that Brian was in on what happened, so he began to receive  thousands of messages a day with the question on everyone’s minds:  “Where is Gabby?” On Sept. 15, Brian officially became a person of interest in Gabby’s case due to his refusal to cooperate. Two days later on Sept. 17, the question became “Where is Brian?” Brian’s parents spoke to the police department and admitted that they had not seen him for three days. Finally, on Sept. 19, Gabby’s remains were at last located. The autopsy report confirmed that it was a homicide, though no intimate details have been released. A warrant has been issued for Brian Laundrie’s arrest. 

I can assure you that Gabby is not the last person that will experience this. It is said that nearly 20 people are physically harmed by a significant other. This means that more than 10 million men and women are being abused by those they love most at this very moment. While many are quick to judge Gabby, and other women similar, by saying that she should have just left Brian, it is never that easy. People like  Brian are masterminds at manipulation and make it almost impossible to leave. They convince their loved ones that they are happy and that they deserve the abuse they receive, though that is never the case. I do not care who they are: nobody ever deserves to be trapped in an abusive relationship, and it tears me apart knowing the criminal justice system is not prioritizing it. These victims need all the help and support that we as humans can provide for them. If you or someone that you know is being abused in any way — verbally, physically, sexually, etc. — call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788.