Gabby Petito’s mom advocates for domestic violence victims: “Breaking the Silence”

Domestic violence is on the rise in West Virginia.

Nichole Schmidt — Gabby Petito’s mom knows firsthand what gender-based violence looks like and is doing all she can to prevent any other women from falling victim.

“Knowing that my daughter went through this, it’s really become our purpose to try and change things,” said Schmidt, a domestic violence advocate. “We are tired of seeing women dying. I know men are affected by it, but as you can see — it’s mostly gender-based.”

Are you a victim of domestic violence? Just know the abuse is not your fault. I believe you, and there are resources out there that can help.

Things got pretty bad in Christy Kennedy’s second marriage but talking about it helps.

“I was choked, grabbed, and at one time, he tried to run my truck into the side of a mountain,” said the survivor/Aware Foundation volunteer. “So, I’ve been through it.”

She says many turn a blind eye and don’t care if the abuse is not happening to them.

“It’s sad what some people will do to gain and keep control of people,” said Kennedy.

Domestic violence might look like love bombing, isolation, or changes in your loved ones’ mental health (acting secretive).

“Keep an open line of communication, especially with teenagers and young adults. Red flags can pass you by and you might not even see them,” Schmidt said. “Which was really the case for us. We didn’t know anything about domestic violence before this.”

According to Nichole, it’s important not just to teach females red flags and how not to be abused, we also need to empower young men that violence isn’t the answer. Since starting
Gabby’s Foundation, survivors often say because of Gabby they left an abusive relationship and feel like they’re alive because of her.

“We’ve seen such a huge uptick in talking about their situations, and it’s really giving other survivors a way to relate,” Schmidt said. “So breaking the silence is extremely important and we need to keep talking about it.”

According to Christy, you have to be careful when deciding to leave. That’s when it gets dangerous.

“No one’s immune to this. It can be your kids. It can be your grandkids. You know, it can be you in the future,” said Kennedy. “It shouldn’t have to happen to you before you care about it.”

Gabby inspires Nichole and her dad Joe to fight the good fight every day.

“Her voice is so powerful and, you know, she no longer has that voice. So we have to do that for her,” Schmidt said. “And it’s really important for us to make sure this doesn’t happen to other young girls or anybody. We don’t want to see this kind of war against gender-based violence.”

Nichole hopes Gabby is proud of them for trying.

“I think she’s probably sad to see that it’s still going on and it seems to be getting worse,” said the domestic violence advocate. “It’s awful. And we will keep going. We’re not gonna stop.”

Schmidt and Kennedy hope nationwide will follow Florida’s lead and adopt the Gabby Petito Act (mandating law enforcement conduct a lethality assessment to protect victims of domestic violence).

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-safe (7233)

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