October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and following the Gabby Petito case, the issue is coming to light more than ever.By Casey Albritton

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and following the Gabby Petito case, the issue is coming to light more than ever.

CW44’s Casey Albritton spoke to two local domestic violence organization leaders about how many domestic violence cases they are seeing right now and what you should do in a dangerous situation.

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Lariana Forsythe with an organization called Community Action Stops Abuse or CASA says “It is happening all over the place.”

Domestic violence… it’s an issue that many people all over the United States face every day.

“Our numbers are elevated for this year. 2020 was surprisingly low. I believe there were eight homicides in Pinellas County, so far we are already at 12,” said Forsythe.

Forsythe and Mindy Murphy with the spring of Tampa Bay say they’ve seen domestic violence get worse over the last year.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen an increase in the sadistic nature of the violence being perpetrated against survivors. We’ve seen a lot more use of weapons,” said Murphy.

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Domestic violence started to come more into the spotlight following the death of Gabby Petito.

“A case comes to national prominence, and it brings an opportunity for people to talk about domestic violence,” said Murphy.

Petito’s death was ruled a homicide, and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie has been named a person of interest. Forsythe says the bodycam video released of a police officer responding to a “possible domestic violence call” and Gabby’s reaction is all very similar to how many victims act.

“The person who is just violated will often act like a Gabby Petito and they just had a situation that they don’t understand, that they can’t process and all of these things are going on and they will appear irrational,” said Forsythe.

Both Forsythe and Murphy say if your partner is controlling certain parts of your life, like what friends and family you have contact with, your whereabouts, how money is spent and more, those are red flags. They say you should call a domestic violence hotline to determine if you could be in danger and what safety plan you should put in place.

“If something turns violent, maybe it’s moving the couch out of the way of the door so they have a way to exit, maybe it’s talking to a neighbor and saying ‘If I put a plant in this window, it means i’m in danger and I need you to call 911 for me,” said Forsythe.

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If you think you’re in a domestic violence situation, you can contact Community Action Stops Abuse’s emergency hotline at 727-895-4912 of the Spring of Tampa Bay at 813-247-7233.