In hindsight, Nicole Schmidt is unsure what she could have done to save her daughter, Gabby Petite, from a messy and violent relationship that ended in murder in the Wild West nearly a year ago. Hmm.
But there is work to be done to keep her daughter’s memory alive, she said. Tragedy and grief.
Through a $100,000 donation from the Gabby Petito Foundation, Schmidt now partners with the National Domestic Violence Hotline to help people survive rough and violent relationships.
“Gabby’s story touched a lot of people and I think she’s saving lives. They send me messages all the time saying that she inspired them to cut ties,” Schmidt told the Associated Press. said in an interview.
The anti-violence hotline receives calls from thousands of people each year. Most of them are women seeking help to get out of physically or emotionally abusive relationships.
So far this year, more than 440,000 people have called the hotline for help. That’s an increase of about a third from the same period last year.
According to hotline chief executive Katie Ray-Jones, the massive increase in calls has increased counselor wait times from seven minutes to more than 17 minutes.
“This is a massive increase that overwhelms our service,” said Ray-Jones. “We need to increase the number of supporters.”
A donation from the Petito Foundation and a donation of $200,000 from another family will be used to reduce wait times and expand the hotline’s “Hope Can’t Wait” initiative.
Investigators believe Petite’s boyfriend Brian Landry murdered her in late August last year while the couple was on a cross-country trip in a van.
Petito’s disappearance has led to a large-scale manhunt. Amateur detectives scoured social media for clues. It has also brought scrutiny from authorities and the news media, both of which have been criticized for giving more attention to missing white women than women of color.
“I had seen a lot of media reports about a young white woman going missing,” Ray Jones admitted in a joint interview with Schmidt. But she said her public reaction came from a variety of groups, including some people of color.
Landry committed suicide in a swamp in Florida, leaving behind a notebook that authorities said contained a confession.
Earlier this year, an independent investigation found that police in Moab, Utah, made “several unintentional mistakes” when they ran into Petite and Landry during a traffic stop last summer. Officers investigated a quarrel between the couple, but eventually let them go under an agreement that they would spend the night apart.
In a report, police said it was very likely that Petite “was a long-term victim of physical, mental, and/or emotional domestic violence.”
Schmidt said there are still many open questions about what went wrong.
“Looking back, I didn’t see any particular signs. I think Gabby and Brian are the only ones who know what happened in that relationship. We can speculate and speculate, but what really happened?” I don’t know what happened,” she added. “Something had been going on for a while, so it’s likely the scenario ended that way.”
For now, work continues to help people survive domestic violence.
“I know we can use this tragedy to help many people,” Schmidt said. “It’s her legacy.”