Signal for help

MOBILE, ALA. (WALA)- While millions continue analyzing Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie's final encounters laid out on social media and in police body camera video, FOX10 News asked local domestic violence expert, Tonie Ann Torans with the Penelope House to weigh in on the video.

"With her being so visible with social media, it brings domestic violence to the front of a lot of conversations," she said.

Torans believed Petito's disappearance and now homicide case gained national attention because of the trail of social media, Petito and fiancé Laundrie left for their followers. She said the alleged domestic violence between the couple happens daily.

Torans said, "Domestic Violence definitely knows no boundaries and it can happen to anybody, any race, any culture, any socio economic status, any level of education."

Body camera video from Moab, Utah police has been viewed millions of times. Police pulled the couple over after a 911 call that alleged Laundrie hit Petito.

When they spoke to the couple separately, they noticed scratch marks on Laundrie.

Torans said police have a very tough job to do in these situations.

"Law enforcement does have a difficult job determining who is the primary aggressor. Was the victim acting in self defense and therefore you will see marks on the perpetrator?" said Torans.

There's a time in the video when officers first approach Petito's van some are speculating that she could have been doing a "violence at home signal for help" to law enforcement. Torans said it's not clear if she was.

"It's very hard to look at those recordings, what's actually going on. It's kind of frantic. So I mean you can probably read into it what you want to read into it as far as what she may or may not have done. But, the bottom line is, I think people need to understand that there is a lot of domestic violence in our communities and often the domestic violence escalates to a situation where there is a homicide."

Police have not confirmed if that was the signal she was using, but if you're in a domestic situation, there is a signal you can use to alert police you're in danger. You put your thumb to your palm and close your fingers slowly over the thumb.

If you're a victim of domestic abuse, Torans said to get out when it's safe to do so. You can also call their hotline 251-342-8994.

All content © 2021, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.

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