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Compassion Project October 2021

24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline: 208.343.7025 24-hour Rape Crisis Hotline: 208.345.7273 (RAPE)

What Can We Learn From the Petito Media Frenzy?

The mystery surrounding the life and death of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old social media influencer, has captured the imagination of the country. Her death, while undoubtedly a tragedy, has highlighted the chasm between how the American media treats the disappearance of young white women and how they treat the disappearance of women of color, and Indigenous women in particular. 

Gabby’s remains were found near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and authorities say her death was likely a homicide. Police body cam footage and anecdotal evidence suggest that she was in an abusive relationship with her fiance Brian Laundrie. Her experience with domestic abuse is in no way unique. 

According to a report by Wyoming’s Taskforce on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, over 700 Indigenous people went missing in the state between 2011 and 2020. Indigenous people are just three percent of the population in Wyoming, yet they made up 21 percent of homicides in the state since 2000. Despite the discrepancy in rates of homicide, missing Indigenous women are less likely to receive media coverage than their white counterparts according to the report. 

Media coverage of Indigenous women often differs from that of white women in ways that perpetuate racist stereotypes that support the systemic oppression of Indigenous peoples. Coverage of missing Indigenous people frames their stories in ways that place blame on victims and their families. In Wyoming media, coverage of indigenous victims was more likely to have negative character framing, violent language, general locations and essentialism (reducing someone to nothing more than a body). Coverage of white victims like Gabby Petito was more likely to have positive framing, articles focused solely on them, and exact locations. 

Victim-blaming narratives have dangerous implications for Indigenous women. They can deter people from reporting that their loved ones are missing. Limited media coverage also sends the message to perpetrators that Indigenous women’s lives are less valuable and that their deaths are less likely to be investigated. Media is powerful–it can further narratives that marginalize the lives and voices of Indigenous women and their communities. 

We must ask ourselves: “Why is this particular case garnering so much attention and whose stories are not being told? Am I contributing to and upholding a culture that values some lives more than others?” 

In order to value and protect all victims, we must question dominant narratives and be critical of the media we consume and share. Holding ourselves and each other accountable is important not just during Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but year-round. 

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EVENTS

Aug 25

2022

WCA Mission Tour

Join us for a 35 minute virtual tour to learn about our mission of safety, healing and freedom through the stories of clients and the impact of our services. The WCA Mission Tour aims to inspire and educate about the complexities and realities of domestic abuse and sexual assault, both here in the Treasure Valley […]

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Oct 02

2022

SueB 5k 10k 2022

On October 2, 2022, we celebrate the 13th annual SueB 5k 10k at noon After two years of racing virtually, we invite you to join us IN PERSON to raise awareness about domestic abuse, while memorializing the life of an individual who has brought so many people together. The SueB 5k 10k provides a space […]

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Oct 12

2022

Witches Night Out at the Village

Mark your calendars for Witches Night Out on October 12, 2022 from 5 – 9 p.m. Wednesday, October 12 we will be celebrating Witches Night Out at The Village at Meridian, hosted by Meridian’s Centercal Properties and its marvelous merchants. Several sponsors help make the evening a resounding success, raising funds for the WCA’ clients’ […]

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Oct 28

2022

Healing Begins with Hope

WCA Healing Begins with Hope Virtual Outreach and Fundraising Event When: October 28, 2022 As the WCA celebrates 112 years of changing lives, we would like to invite our community to mark their calendars and save the date! The event will be an opportunity to learn more about the WCA’s mission of safety, healing and […]

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