(NEW YORK) — Nearly one year after the death of Gabby Petito, her family announced a major donation to help victims of domestic violence.
The Gabby Petito Foundation, formed by Petito’s family after her death, has donated $100,000 to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which offers free resources and support for people suffering from domestic violence.
“No family should feel the pain that we’ve felt every day since we lost Gabby,” Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said in a statement. “Survivors who are able to reach out should connect with an advocate quickly.”
The hotline said it will use the donated money to hire and train more full-time advocates and will use it to “advance its technology infrastructure” to be able to answer more calls and online messages.
Katie Ray-Jones, the hotline’s CEO, said the donation comes at a much-needed time due to the increase in rates of domestic violence throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The donation was made to the hotline’s “Hope Can’t Wait” emergency fundraising campaign, which is trying to raise $2 million.
“The Hotline’s contact volume has almost doubled over last year; on average we’re receiving nearly 80,000 incoming calls, chats and texts each month,” Ray-Jones said in a statement. “More than ever, survivors need validation, support and safety planning, and connection to resources such as shelter, legal aid, economic assistance and healthcare.”
She continued, “The Gabby Petito Foundation’s generous donation, and all gifts to our campaign, will help to ensure our critical 24/7 work continues and we can connect with more people impacted by domestic violence.”
Petito, 22, went missing in late August while on a trip through Colorado and Utah with her then-boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, who later went missing after returning to Florida without Petito.
On Sept. 19, 2021, search crews discovered a body in Bridger-Teton National Park in Wyoming that was later determined to be Petito’s. An autopsy found she died from strangulation, officials said.
Search crews combed the Florida wetlands where Laundrie was last seen and found his remains in Carlton Reserve, near North Port, on Oct. 20, 2021.
In January, the FBI released new details in the investigation of Petito’s death, saying that Laundrie wrote that he killed her in his notebook.
Petito’s parents have worked since her death to raise awareness around domestic violence and provide support for people in need.
In his eulogy at his daughter’s funeral, Joseph Petito told mourners, “If there is a relationship that you’re in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it now. Take care of yourself first.”
The Gabby Petito Foundation’s mission is to “address the needs of organizations that support locating missing persons and to provide aid to organizations that assist victims of domestic violence situations, through education, awareness, and prevention strategies,” according to its website.
Experts note that when cases like Petito’s are in the news, though extremely tragic, they can raise awareness about domestic violence and the many forms it may take.
On average, more than one in three women and one in four men will experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Young people between the ages of 18 and 24 experience the highest rates of domestic violence, according to Kiersten Stewart, director of public policy and advocacy of Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit organization focused on ending violence against women and children.
“Domestic violence is still a very serious issue,” Stewart told ABC News last year. “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.”
If you need help or need help supporting someone else, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text START to 88788 or chat online at TheHotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7.
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