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What should you do in a domestic abuse situation?

Jesse Ritka

What should you do in a domestic abuse situation?

CREATED Oct. 22, 2012 - UPDATED: Oct. 22, 2012

WAUKESHA - The Waukesha Women's Center is using purple cutouts to represent the victims of domestic abuse, and after yesterday's tragedy, they will have to add three more.

Kathy Herbst, Dir. Shelter & Transitional Living at The Women's Center, tells TODAY'S TMJ4's Jesse Ritka how Sunday's events may actually sway women away from getting out of an abusive relationship.  "There certainly going to be women out there who are more afraid, more concerned for their own safety and maybe reluctant to reach out for help because they're afraid of the consequences," Herbst says.

Every woman and situation is different but reaching out is the first step you should.  "The majority of domestic violence cases never end up with a homicide, so for those victims, reaching out for help can be crucial, calling our crisis line, or a crisis line, they know how to help someone safety plan, they know the things they should look for," Herbst explains.

Herbst recommends starting a record of contact with the abuser, "Documenting any incidents, is he calling you 20 times a day, is he texting you over and over again, are the messages threatening, make sure you're saving those, documenting them and have them available to give to law enforcement so they can be building a case.  Keeping letters, cards, voicemails, texts and all those types of things, for some women changing the phone number helps a lot."

If you need to, call from work or from a friends phone to keep it private but be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.  "Pack up some things you know you'd want to take with you, usually that's paperwork, birth certificates, driver license, bank account books, some money in a wallet.  Figure out your exit plan, figure out how you're going to get out," Herbst urges.

Because getting out is the next step if the abuse continues.  Herbst says that may be the answer in some cases, "Many women can just end the relationship, that's it, I'm done, move out, have the partner move out, and that's an end to it.  For other women it might be I'm going to stay with a family member or a friend."

And if family and friends are not an option, there are several shelters like The Women's Center to help keep domestic abuse victims safe and secure.  "Some women don't come to shelter but they go and get a restraining order and in many, many cases that actually works, so I would not want women to be afraid to go get restraining orders because probably most of the time it does what it's supposed to do," says Herbst.

But if the abuser breaks the restraining order, or if at any time you feel your life is in danger, 911 is the first call to make.  "Get out of the situation, call the police, get some help immediately," Herbst says.

The Women's Center is just one of many resources available to help get the process started, but taking the first step is up to you.

You can call The Women's Center 24-Hour Crisis anytime at (262) 542-3828.