Co-sponsor of Gabby Petito-inspired bill: ‘Good policy is going to make a difference’

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(NewsNation) — Florida lawmakers unanimously passed a domestic violence bill that includes language pushed for by the family of Gabby Petito. A co-sponsor of that bill says she hopes it’ll make a difference.

According to the CDC, one in three women in the United States will experience physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime. The bill signals a significant step forward in addressing the pervasive issue of domestic violence, according to state Sen. Erin Grall.

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“A lot of times the victims are dismissed…Training for law enforcement on these types of instances is really important,” Grall, a co-sponsor of the bill, said during a Sunday interview on “NewsNation Prime.”

The bill is named after 22-year-old Gabby Petito who was found dead in 2021 after being reported missing while on a road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. The legislation, which is now headed to the governor’s desk, includes language pushed for by Gabby’s father, Joe Petito, and aims to address crucial gaps in law enforcement responses to such incidents.

Grall emphasized the importance of providing law enforcement officers with the necessary tools and training to effectively handle cases of intimate partner violence.

Laundrie was a person of interest in the case. He refused to talk with authorities and disappeared Sept. 13, 2021. His body was found near the Carlton Reserve in Florida on Oct. 20, and identified the next day. Petito’s body was found at a camping area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming in September, days after a nationwide search was launched.

Timeline of Petito disappearance, Laundrie manhunt

The bill mandates a set of questions for law enforcement officers to ask potential victims of domestic abuse when responding to calls. This standardized approach seeks to ensure that victims receive consistent support and are made aware of the dangers they may be facing.

Reflecting on the tragic circumstances surrounding Petito’s death, Grall acknowledged the missed opportunities in her interactions with law enforcement. Police in Moab, Utah, received backlash after encountering Petito and Laundrie following a reported fight near Arches National Park shortly before her disappearance. Laundrie was taken to a hotel room for the night while Petito made other arrangements, but no additional action was taken.

The bill requires the collaboration of various state agencies and domestic violence organizations to identify and address gaps in victim support services.

Following its passage through the Florida Senate, the bill now awaits the governor’s signature to become state law. If signed, it would go into effect July 1, 2024.

Once enacted, the focus will shift to the thorough implementation of training programs for law enforcement officers, with a target completion date of October 1, 2026.

Grall underscored the need for coordination between law enforcement agencies and domestic violence centers to ensure victims are connected with vital resources and support services.

NewsNation affiliate WFLA’s Kevin Accettulla contributed to this report.

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