Femicide: The Great Snuff and Silencer (Gabby Petito Story)

Available for Interviews: Dr. Hope Umansky

Dr. Hope’s training and background in working with domestic violence victims affords her a unique perspective in the Gabby Petito story. She has served on a forensic sexual assault team as well as with victims of domestic violence.

Dr. Hope Umansky is an American Culture College Professor with a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

What Dr. Hope can say in an interview on
the Gabby Petito Tragedy:

    • Femicide—Violence from domestic violence perpetrators or the lack of understanding the cops showed and the victim-blaming will never change and transcend awareness of what really is happening in the body cam tape. Grabbing the face as Gabby testified to on the webcam and manual strangulation on the autopsy is the exertion of the power that abusers assert as if to say you have no right to speak, no right to voice your truth, and I am exerting the ultimate personal silencer by watching you die, face to face. Manual strangulation is a very personal crime that literally and figuratively says you cannot breathe without me—giving the perpetrator the ultimate control.
    • The Gabby Petito story is tragic because we see the precipitant to the violence on tape and it would have been so easy to save her had she been arrested (which would have been wrong policing) or if Brian Laundrie (the sole person of interest currently) would have been arrested OR she was not ashamed and like a classic domestic violence victim taking the blame entirely on herself. Despite displaying scratches and was shamed and told you are lucky we are not taking you in. If she had been arrested (inappropriate course of action); however, she would still be alive. 
    • Everyone’s focusing on Gabby’s behavior but we need to focus on Brian’s behavior that is uniquely narcissistic and sociopathic. The disparity in his emotional state to hers, his frantic looking for her, and lying to the police saying he did not have a phone (only to then pull one out of his pocket).
    • The whole case is symbolism for snuffing out women’s voices as he even threw her phone away or took control of it as evidenced by the strange texts received that were not in Gabby’s voice. 
    • A  researcher named Kate Manne has shown that a victim of non-lethal manual strangulation in pre-behaviors that lead to femicide in domestic violence victims, which is the same movement when he was grabbing her face (as she demonstrated to the police) and is a pre-step of strangulation in domestic violence cases
    • Grabbing of the face to shut one up literally and figuratively and to snuff out the victim’s voice and breath. As a society, we are still pervasively ignorant about the pattern of violence that builds, and when partner violence gets to that place of grabbing your face you are seven times more likely to die by that same perpetrator, usually your partner or a male acquaintance.
    • Not appropriate to send untrained law enforcement without a deep understanding of batterer and victim psychology to these calls. As we see here, Gabby was blamed, shamed, and then killed. Statistics show that the most dangerous time for any woman is when she has broken up, has left, or is preparing to leave a batterer. Perhaps Gabby was ready to go home and he had to snuff her out. This also appeared to be a spontaneous killing as she was left out in the open. That is, in psychology, what we call a “disorganized” killing as he just left with no plan.
Supporting Data
    • 80-85% of all violence and homicide against women is from a perpetrator they know and have invited into their home and with whom they trust. 24 years after Nicole Brown Simpson our understanding is still ignorance and victim-blaming. When will women be able to feel safe physically and not have their voice and breath literally stifled?
    • The act of talking back is a revolutionary one from women, as the theorist, bell hooks, said in the 1990s because preventing her from being able to speak shuts her up and takes away her ability to reveal the truth.
    • Strangulation is not even necessarily homicidal and an intent to kill but femicide is, which is why the word femicide is more appropriate here.  Strangulation, particularly manual strangulation between domestic violence partners, is about silencing the woman at her most vulnerable spot literally and figuratively where she can no longer speak up and oppose the abuse.


We need to have a trained mental health provider called in to access all domestic violence and partner violence reports. Law enforcement does not have this training. When can women finally stop being scared—especially of the men they welcome into their lives? It is still not safe. It is no longer Take Back the Night (in reference to the international event and non-profit organization with the mission of ending sexual, relationship, and domestic violence). It is take back our VOICE.


MORE on Dr. Hope’s Expertise related to this story . . . 

    • Dr. Hope has had special training in domestic violence when she worked with victims in a domestic violence safe center. While there she worked with the court-ordered batterers and acted as a facilitator with groups to help rehabilitate them—no small feat.
    • In Dr. Hope’s experience, many of the victims she worked with individually while the perpetrators were in group court-ordered therapy with her, were murdered. In 2 ½ years, she saw about four “accidents” that resulted in women who had called the police on the perpetrators. They were no accidents from the pattern of behavior reported, which is key in understanding the build-up of this case. Police never pursued these cases, despite the obvious.
    • In addition to serving on a forensic sexual assault response team, Dr. Hope can attest to the fact that physical and sexual assaults happen predominantly from men the women were involved with.

Interview: Dr. Hope Umansky

Hope Umansky, PhD, AKA Dr. Hope, is an American Culture College Professor and an author on educational reform, equity, inclusion, social justice & American culture. Her column, Dr. Hope On Point represents the intersection of historical context and popular culture, with an emphasis on the complex human experience.

Dr. Hope offers a unique psychology-based perspective on the questions and events that weigh heavy on our hearts and minds.

Jo Allison
Managing Editor
Director of Public Relations
Success In Media, Inc.

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