Dear Gabby

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

23 September 2021

Dear Gabby,

I know you likely didn’t realize this before your untimely death, but your OCD, your anxiety, and your mood didn’t cause your fiancé to be abusive. If you chose not to obsessively clean, took deep breaths, got some space when tensions were high, and were cheerful and happy – he still would’ve been angry and controlling. His abusive nature was his problem and had nothing to do with your behaviors; although, he did force his problem on you by slowly picking away at your life.

I’m sorry the officer didn’t listen to the 911 call. The person who observed your fight reported that your fiancé hit you. I’m sorry the officer didn’t understand what DARVO is. Instead of protecting you, he found it easier to protect your abuser. I’m sorry the officer assumed the van was your fiancé’s van, as if you couldn’t have been the one who purchased, registered, and insured it.

I’m sorry the officer didn’t understand Intimate Partner Violence. Otherwise, after the 911 call, he would have made sure you spent the night apart from your fiancé. He didn’t. But I have to tell you: One night apart would not change your fiancé’s abusive behavior. One night apart would not have kept you safe.

I imagine the fact that the police blamed you emboldened him. And I wonder if that might have been your last straw. Did you say enough was enough? Did you tell him you wanted to separate? Did you tell him the interaction with the police was a wake-up call? It wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case. After all, approximately 75 percent of women who are killed by their batterers are murdered when they attempt to leave or after they’ve left abusive relationships.

You were 22 years old. You had your entire life ahead of you. With the early success of your traveling blog and social media, I imagine you had so much of the world left to explore. I imagine you had so many adventures left to experience and so many stories left to tell. Some people may have thought you were foolish to make that career move, but you were just meant for a different lifestyle, a lifestyle many of us admire you for.

I’m sorry your life was cut short, Gabby. I wish I knew you and could have shared some books and other resources that might have changed your life’s outcome. I also wish women’s rights were more important in the United States (U.S.). Perhaps your death will be the push we need to finally have the U.S. ratify the Convention on the Eliminations of Discrimination Against Women. In 2018, more than 1,841 women were killed by men in the U.S. alone. I can only imagine what that number has grown to since the beginning of the pandemic. And that doesn’t even begin to address the hundreds of thousands of missing women each year.

You were important Gabby. Your life mattered. Thank you for reminding me we need to work harder to protect victims of abuse. And thank you for being you. You deserved a partner who loved and supported you. And I’m sorry you didn’t find him.



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