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Help is out there: Southern Nevada resources for leaving domestic violence

dv panel
Kristen DeSilva/KNPR

Panel of domestic violence experts at KNPR on Oct. 27, 2022.

This is just one story. It comes from the Guardian Australia:

I was in a violent relationship for 18 years. At the beginning of the marriage, there weren’t any episodes of violence or abuse. Then things started to happen. 

Initially, it was things like, we’d have to travel but for the whole trip I wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet.  

The emotional abuse gradually became more intense, and then the physical abuse set in. One of the things abusers tend to do is to isolate us from the community, so it’s harder for us to seek help and … over time, we believe their lies. 

Eventually, your body will accumulate enough stress that it manifests in physical symptoms. I suffered from excessive bleeding and chronic fatigue, and when that happened, my colleague picked it up. 

On average, it takes a woman seven times to leave a relationship for good. I lost the support of my own family, and friends. It’s about trying to form a new circle of friends around you for support. 

There’s a lot more to that story. And unfortunately, it’s pretty common. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline says almost 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner and report it. And 1 in 10 high schoolers have experienced physical violence from a partner. 

It’s not easy to escape something like that. But there is help. 

On Thursday, joining State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann is a panel from SafeNest, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and Unshakeable to go through some of these steps. 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is something that affects people of all gender identities, ethnicities, and income levels. It comes in so many different forms, and it isn’t always physical.  

Sometimes, survivors may not know they're in an abusive situation.

Liz Ortenburger, the CEO of SafeNest, said the brain works  in three stages of attachment: Lust, then love, then attach. 

"What that means is the first parts of a relationship and a healthy relationship and a violent relationship look exactly the same," she said.

An early red flag can present in a mild argument: "Can your voice be heard in that argument? Or are you just steamrolled with an entourage of gaslighting from the person who you're arguing with? That's a really early indicator that there could be trouble here."

For survivors, SafeNest offers services designed to get them safe and on a path to healing. That includes shelter, counseling, traditional housing, help with the courts and more. 

"We're going to help you find the pathway and the solutions that work best for you. And those are varied across our 30,000 survivors every year," she said.

For children, they work to stop the cycle; 76% of children growing up in domestic violence households will repeat the cycle. They also offer mandated and voluntary classes for abusers to break their own cycle. 

"There are some abusers who are amenable and ready for a change. They don't want to be creating this relationship, but they have zero skills on how to have a healthy relationship," Ortenburger said. "That's one bucket, all the way up to our highly-lethal bucket. That may be strangling and threatening suicide or homicide to their victims."

How do we bring down domestic violence rates in Southern Nevada? It's a question Ortenburger is asked often. 

"If we truly want to bring down the rates of domestic violence, we have got to invest in a healthy relationship curriculum, like no other district in the country. I'm not talking about sexual education. I'm talking about what is appropriate between a relationship of two people that children can grow up understanding what healthy looks like, because if you grew up in a happy, healthy home, you repeat that cycle," she said. 

Research shows that it can sometimes take seven tries before someone finally escapes. And once they do, though there are shelters like SafeNest, and then there are legal matters to deal with: protection orders, child custody, divorce, lease payments. 

It can be overwhelming, and it might give someone pause, even if they want to get out. The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada provides a lot of help. April Green is the director of the center's Family Justice Project. 

A protection order can have someone's abuser removed from the premises. They can order a legal distance between an abuser and a location such as a survivor's home, and they can also help with custody of children, pets and financial resources.

But, it's not always easy to prove to a judge that such an order is needed.

"Sadly, oftentimes, the court will want some kind of corroboration," Green said. "So just a survivor's recount or story of what happened is not enough. Oftentimes, the court wants to know if there was an arrest. The statute does not require that. If you have been harmed, and this includes threats of violence, stalking and harassment, ... you should be able to tell your story, and if the court believes that the standard is to the satisfaction of the court, you could be granted a protection order for 45 days, or given an opportunity to return for a hearing in 45 days to request an extension of the protection order. There are 10s of 1000s of applications that the Court receives. I'm sure they do the best they can. But we often have frustrated victims who did not get a protection order, or did not get an extension, and have become very disappointed with the process."

Advice out there says to keep a record of the abuse. Green said that means as many details as you can: dates, incident numbers, report details and emergency room or hospital records.

Unshakeable's mission is to guide women recovering from trauma to return to the workforce and achieve financial independence. Its founder, Debbie Isaacs, told State of Nevada it's not just helping women find a job, it's figuring out childcare, transportation.

"When we can get them to buy in and believe that there is an opportunity for them, and that there's over 12,000 careers in the world ... We're going to find something that you can land on and then continue to grow, and achieve financial stability for yourself and for your children," she said.

Additional resources

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • SafeNest Nevada 24/7 Hotline: 702-646-4981

Liz Ortenburger, CEO, SafeNest; Debbie Isaacs, founder, Unshakeable; April Green, director, Family Justice Project, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada 

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Kristen Kidman is the senior producer at KNPR’s State of Nevada and is proud to be from Las Vegas.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She curates content on, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.