ORLANDO, Fla. -- While many domestic violence victims may feel trapped, advocates and experts say there is hope.

''They should know it's not a sign of weakness to reach out for help and should know they're not in this alone," said UCF associate professor Dr. Lee Ross, who has studied domestic violence since the early 1990s and dedicated his life to understanding the complexities of it.

He also grew up in a household where he witnessed abuse.

''(I saw) a lot of conflict. Not just conflict among siblings, but among mother and father," he said. ''I wanted to empathize with how the victims felt, primarily my mom,'' Ross said.

The University of Central Florida instructor said that because violence is everywhere, it should be studied in order to be stopped.

"Those who love you most are most likely to hurt you, but love shouldn't hurt," Ross said.

''Some people call it domestic violence, domestic abuse. I call it love abuse, because people are literally abusing the love that they have for you," he said, adding that the most dangerous time for an abused person is often when they're trying to leave a situation.

Leaving isn't always cut and dry when there are socioeconomic and psychological dependencies.

"It's very inconvenient to uproot yourself and re-establish a lifestyle. Kids are in school; you have different familiarities," he said. "... A lot of abusers will do anything they can to prevent that from happening," Ross said.

Other victim advocates, such as Michelle Sperzel of Harbor House, echo that, adding that it's about power and control for the abuser, sometimes using children as leverage.

The victim in this case did the right thing by calling police, but making a plan to leave is key, Sperzel said.

''Having a plan to make sure that they're safe, their kids are safe, their pets are safe, are really important," she said. ''... Having the kids' records, the vet's records for your animals, having bank records.''

Keep pertinent documents in one spot, perhaps at a friend's house, she suggested.

Harbor House, funded by the state, local government and private donors. is the only certified domestic violence center serving Orange County. It has a temporary emergency center, hotline and advocates who help those abused.

Sperzel, who has worked as a victim advocate for the past 15 years, said that Monday's shooting incident serves as a reminder for her to continue working to expand Harbor House's resources for children.

Ross, who just finished writing his second book on the topic of domestic violence, said that hope comes in the form of knowledge.

''A cure for domestic violence is this thing called education. The more informed and dedicated people are about the constructs of domestic violence, the damage it does to us as a people, the more we are inclined to avoid it at all costs," Ross said.

"There is absolutely hope."

If you need help in getting out of a dangerous situation, Harbor House's statewide hotline is 1-800-500-1119 or visit https://www.harborhousefl.com/