Gabby Petito Foundation donates $100K to domestic violence hotline as calls surge: 'She's saving lives'
Gabby Petito's family recently donated $100,000 to the National Domestic Violence Hotline through The Gabby Petito Foundation, which was started in honor of Gabby, the girl who mysteriously disappeared while on a cross-country trip with her fiance, Brian Laundrie. It later emerged that Laundrie had killed her by strangling her. Laundrie reportedly had been abusive even earlier but Petito had largely hidden that fact from family and friends. The tragedy is reaching its one-year anniversary soon.
The family has tried to channel their grief by helping others and assisting victims of domestic violence by providing them with resources. The amount donated by the Gabby Petito Foundation has brought the hotline closer to its goal of collecting $2 million to increase its respondent capacity. Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said they have started receiving approximately 80,000 more calls per month after Petito's death was ruled a homicide by manual strangulation. Her death might have been the triggering news that many women needed to reach out for help. Due to this, the hotline has been struggling with staffing and funding and therefore asked for the public's help to reach its goal.
Ray-Jones said, "We are hiring on a daily and monthly basis. We are training every single month. We're getting advocates on the line as quickly as we can as we are getting resources into the organization." But she also admitted that they "don't have enough advocates to meet the demand of services. Our wait times are high. We're not able to get to the number of people coming in, and we need to hire more advocates."
Petito's mother Nichole Schmidt told Fox News "Thinking about my daughter, if she had decided to call and then she couldn't get through… It just breaks my heart knowing that outcome could happen to somebody because they couldn't get through, so this is important." The funds donated by the Gabby Petito Foundation is in support of the hotline’s "Hope Can’t Wait" initiative, which aims to provide callers the help they need with minimal wait time.
"Honestly, she's saving lives. People see themselves in her. People from all walks of life. They see a situation they don't want to be in. They don't want to end up in that horrible, tragic ending," Schmidt added. She also noted how her daughter was the one "doing all the work". She said, "It's impacting millions of people, and I'm just so proud of her because I feel like she's doing all the work. We're just doing it for her. I feel like she's almost working through us with her spirit, so I'm just really excited to help as many people as we can."
"We know that survivors have a small window of time in which they can safely reach out to an advocate," Ray-Jones said. "Their partner may have left the house to go to the grocery store. They may have left to go to work. They don't have 15, 20 minutes to be on the line waiting for an advocate." She added, "We want to seize that moment of opportunity when we can get a trained advocate who can work with them and get them connected to services as quickly as possible." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year more than 12 million people in the United States are affected by "intimate partner violence".