LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Domestic violence calls compose the "single largest call volume" Las Vegas Metropolitan Police receive.
SafeNest CEO Liz Ortenburger said valley-wide, police receive about 100,000 9-1-1 calls for domestic violence every year. Her nonprofit provides resources to help victims of domestic violence with the mission being to end it altogether.
After the death of Amari Nicholson, in which the 2-year-old's mother's boyfriend has been charged with murder, FOX5 asked Ortenburger what can be done to prevent domestic violence and how victims and bystanders can work to make themselves safe.
“We see this happening in domestic violence where a grandparent or mother or friend of the family sees the violence happening but they don’t feel like they can get to the victim or get to a child that is being victimized,” Ortenburger said. “It’s incredibly frustrating for everybody involved.”
She said victims stay with abusive partners for a "myriad" of reasons including threats on their life, lives of the victim's children or loved ones and financial reasons. Furthermore, victims often isolate themselves from family and friends in getting involved with the abuser.
She said that the best help, however is not necessarily to tell the victim what to do or offer to "save" them, but rather ask them what they need.
"As a bystander in that situation, the hardest thing to do is not judge. What we want to do is say, ‘Get out of there. Leave. Come stay with me. I’ll come get you.’ We want to come in and rescue. When we think of the reality of that, the trauma brain and the dynamics of domestic violence -- When we’re telling somebody what to do, we’re doing the exact same thing a batterer is doing," Ortenburger said.
She said telling a victim to leave or telling them what to do is similar to the actions of the abuser, and that although the intention is to help and not to harm, victims have a hard time distinguishing between the two.
"For those of us that are bystanders in this space, it’s important to say, ‘What is it that you want to do? How can I help?’ Not [say] ‘You’ve got to leave him,' ... It is incredibly hard," she said.
For victims, Ortenburger recommended creating a safe word that could be used when calling for help in the presence of the abuser. Designating a word and using it twice in a sentence on the phone, for example, can be a code to call for help when a victim does not feel safe expressing distress or showing their abuser that they are calling for help.
She also recommended SafeNest's hotline, which can be reached by voice or text at (702) 646-4981, or their online chat feature at safenest.org.
When FOX5 asked Ortenburger how the family of Amari might have been able to prevent his death, she said the focus rather should be on how Amari's killer could have gotten to a point to kill a child.
"The mother’s action’s here are not the story. The story is how is this anger inside this man at the point where he’s committing a homicide against a child," she said. "Until we start answering that question as a society, domestic violence, sexual assault, they’re going to be part of our make up. Because, too often, we want to focus on, ‘Well, why didn’t she leave?’"
RESOURCES FROM OLIVE CREST IN LAS VEGAS
Olive Crest, a nonprofit that operates across the U.S. and in Nevada providing programs to address child abuse, also offered ways victims and bystanders can help in the moment. Jimmy Monaghan, Executive Director of Olive Crest Nevada, said stopping child abuse is "something we all must do."
"Any form of abuse is tragic, and we are saddened by the news of Amari’s death. This is a sad reality in our country with a report of child abuse made every 10 seconds and 5 children dying every day because of abuse or neglect," Monaghan said. "The stress and isolation experienced by many in our community during COVID-19 exasperated the situation."
Olive Crest provided a list of some things folks can do in the moment to prevent child abuse:
- Simply walk away from the situation to deescalate.
- Call a friend.
- Call a hotline for crisis intervention, such as: Child Help National Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453 call or text OR childhelphotline.org for live chat.
- Have a safety plan in place before the situation becomes violent.
- If anger, depression, or anxiety are issues seek counseling from a therapist or community agency.
- Avoid substance use, especially in high stress times.
- Ask for help. If you don’t have anyone to ask for help, call Olive Crest at 702-685-3459.