Local domestic violence expert weighs in on Petito case

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- The highly publicized disappearance of Gabby Petito has left hearts heavy after police discovered her body in Wyoming.

The last images of Petito alive include police video, but police determined Petito was the aggressor.

Petito was emotional when police pulled them over. 

Departments like Milwaukee don't leave it up to the officers to decide who's the victim and who's the abuser. Milwaukee pairs uniformed officers with trained therapists to respond to mental health crises.

"Do you mind if I take pictures of the injuries you sustained?" asked police in Moab, Utah. 

Brian Laundrie had scratches on his hand, his neck and his arm. 

"Were you attempting to cause him physical pain or physical impairment? What were you attempting to do? What was the reason behind?" asked police. 

"I was trying to get him to stop (inaudible)," said Petito.

"You can see why she would be panicking if she was the victim, because she's fighting for her life. So it is very difficult for police to tell," said Jori Chambers, Women's Resource Center assistant director.

The Women's Resource Center's in Racine, where police have a series of questions they ask on domestic violence calls -- part of their lethality assessment. 

"So the more yesses you get, the more potentially it could be. We do see a lot of victims come in that they defended themselves so they get the charge and it's really scary," said Chambers.

Petito seems to shoulder the blame for the fight with her fiancé. 

"I was distracting him from driving. I'm sorry," said Petito.

Petito went on to say, "Some days I just have really bad OCD and I was just cleaning and straightening and I was apologizing to him."

"That is completely normal in these cases, because a lot of times the abusive partner gaslights you," said Chambers. "They make you feel like you're the issue if you were just smarter, if you were just cleaner."

Chambers says it's the power control wheel. Victims often suffer in silence.

"You never know when someone's unstable and abusive, you never know what's gonna set them off. If they're angry at the person that moved past them wrong or cut them off in traffic, they might take it out on you."

Forty minutes into the traffic stop, officers are seen joking around with Laundrie.

"And I know how rough this can be. I've been married five and a half years (laughter)," said police in Utah.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call the Women's Resource Center at 262-633-3233 or text 262-221-0058.

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