Social media encouraging domestic violence victims to leave abus - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Social media encouraging domestic violence victims to leave abusers

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Manipulation, abuse or even murder could be occurring in your neighborhood. Nevada still has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse in the nation.

Domestic violence is nothing new, but evolving technology is giving many women a new path out.

Nevada is currently the sixth highest state in the nation for domestic abuse when the man is the abuser, according to the Violence Policy Center.

You're probably familiar with local high-profile cases. Metro Lt. Hans Walters admitted to killing his wife and 5-year-old son before setting his Boulder City house on fire and taking his own life.

Mixed-martial arts fighter Jonathan Koppenhaver, known as War Machine, is accused of brutally beating his ex-girlfriend, Christy Mack.

Recently, Clark County School District employee Jodi Joyce was stabbed to death in front of her children by her husband, according to police.

What you're probably less familiar with are the everyday stories such as those of two women who identified themselves as Nicole and Kristina. Both recently left abusive relationships.

Nicole said she is lucky to have escaped with her life.

“He started smacking me in the face, pushing me, hitting me with a broom on my leg, and he made me have sex with him. So right then and there, I knew I had to leave,” Nicole said.

Nicole even found bruises on her young son's body. Child Protective Services stepped in.

“It was the hardest thing because I felt like when they took my son, I felt like I let him down because I should have never stayed with someone who treated me bad,” Nicole said.

Kristina said she stayed in an abusive relationship because after years of bad relationships, it's all she knew.

“The first thought is there's something wrong with you. In a lot of ways, that keeps you with them,” Kristina said.

Victim advocates say money, children and the fear of leaving often keep women with their abusers. Experts say the most dangerous time for a woman is when she attempts to leave an abusive relationship. In fact, most women attempt to leave several times before doing so for good.

#whyistayed and #whyileft continue to trend on Twitter. Horrific stories of abuse are often eclipsed by stories of bravery, strength and hope.

Therapist Dr. Valerie Williams-Goss said social media has opened the door to honest and public conversation about domestic violence. Shelters are becoming interactive online.

Williams-Goss said social media could be a life-saving tool.

“Oh, yeah. I think it already is becoming that,” she said.

Williams-Goss said Nevada has a unique set of circumstances that may contribute to high instances of domestic violence.

“There is a lot of family drama around gaming here that we don't see in other states. Pressure can escalate domestic violence,” Williams-Goss said.

Substance abuse, Williams-Goss said, makes the situation worse. She also believes that more cases are reported in Nevada and that social media may encourage more women to come forward.

“You're worth it,” Nicole said.

“Just get away, because that person will take your life,” Kristina said.

Nicole and Kristina are staying at the Shade Tree shelter, trying to get back on their feet again. Nicole is in school, trying to become a certified nursing assistant. Kristina is looking for a job.

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