Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2017

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Recognize domestic violence: The incidence in Nevada is higher — and the spectrum broader — than most realize

Anyone can be a victim

While 85% of domestic violence victims are women, men and children also are affected.

Every 9 seconds a woman in America is beaten or assaulted.

Nevada consistently ranks high in deaths related to domestic violence. In 2016, there were at least 24, according to the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. The year before, 43 victims lost their lives.

Those numbers are alarming even without contrast. Roughly 44 percent of women and 33 percent of men living in the state experienced some form of violence at the hands of an intimate partner, according to the most recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. The national rate for women is about 1 in 4, and for men it’s 1 out of every 9.

Jennifer Guthrie, a communications professor in UNLV’s Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, is co-author of an award-winning study on women who survived abusive relationships and how the ways they told their stories influenced their access to support services.

“Even when we think generally of public stories of domestic violence, most people focus on physical violence. And in terms of the criminal justice system or even service systems ... that physical violence is the key to getting those resources,” Guthrie said. “For a lot of women, the physical violence is scary, dangerous, traumatic. But the emotional abuse, the control, the psychological abuse — making them think they’re crazy, playing mind games with them — that was the part that was most traumatic for some women.”

Guthrie’s work points to the spectrum of domestic violence. Some victims may not realize what they’re enduring is classified that way, or how to seek help.

Types of domestic violence

The Nevada Attorney General’s Office defines domestic violence as “a crime involving the use of power, coercion and violence to control another.” Different forms often are woven together and can create a twisted dependency upon the perpetrator. For example, a husband who beats his wife may threaten to take away their children if she reports anything to the police.

Nevada’s Domestic Violence Law, NRS 33.018, is broad. It applies to the spectrum of abusive acts committed against a person’s spouse or former spouse and “any other person to whom the person is related by blood or marriage, any other person with whom the person is or was actually residing, any other person with whom the person has had or is having a dating relationship, any other person with whom the person has a child in common, the minor child of any of those persons, the person’s minor child or any other person who has been appointed the custodian or legal guardian for the person’s minor child.”

Physical abuse

Any intentional unwanted contact on or near a person’s body used to harm or instill fear for his or her safety

Examples include:

• pulling hair, slapping, pushing, choking or throwing objects at someone

• extreme forms include beating, burning or running someone over in a car

Digital abuse

Using technology to harass, stalk or blackmail someone into becoming dependent on the abuser

Examples include:

• telling a person who they can and can’t be friends with on social media

• demanding access to his or her phone or passwords to other devices

• tracking or demanding to track someone through apps

• using explicit photos sent in confidence to blackmail him or her into submission

• posting “revenge porn”

Sexual abuse

Any action that coerces someone to do something sexually, whether it affects his or her ability to control the sexual activity or the circumstances

Examples include:

• rape or attempted rape

• pressuring someone to have sex or perform sexual acts

• refusing to use a condom or removing it without the partner’s knowledge

Emotional/verbal abuse

Threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking

Examples include:

A common form is “gaslighting,” or manipulating a person to question his or her own feelings or sanity. This can be done by:

• trivializing or denying abusive behaviors

• threatening to commit suicide or harm someone the person loves to keep him or her in the relationship

• publicly berating or embarrassing the person

• threatening to expose his or her sexual orientation or immigration status

Financial abuse

Did you know?

Financial abuse occurs in 98 percent of abusive relationships, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Once someone is dependent on the abuser for money, leaving the relationship is increasingly difficult.

Making or attempting to make a person financially dependent on the abuser

Examples include:

• preventing a person from going to work

• making someone chronically late in the hopes of it leading to job termination

• using a person’s Social Security number to take out loans and ruin his or her credit

• merging checking accounts but denying the partner access

Stalking

State stalking laws differ, and in Nevada, it is “a person who, without lawful authority, willfully or maliciously engages in a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household.”

Examples include:

• constantly calling someone and hanging up

• showing up at a person’s job or house unannounced

• leaving unwanted gifts

• using other people to investigate another’s life

• using fake accounts to look at his or her social media feeds

For those struggling to address or leave abusive relationships

• Fill out this form from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, and keep it away from your abuser: ncdsv.org/images/DV_Safety_Plan.pdf

• Move arguments away from high-risk places like a bathroom, garage, kitchen or any room that contains weapons and/or doesn’t have a door to the outside.

• When you’re alone, ask a neighbor to call police if he or she ever hears suspicious noises coming from your house.

• Come up with a code word to use with your friends or your children so they can call for help if you need it.

• Know which doors or windows will be unlocked in case you need to escape your house quickly.

Developing a Safe Exit Plan

• Store an extra set of house keys, some cash, clothes and copies of important documents with a friend, family member or other trusted person.

• Once you leave the abusive situation, try to stay with someone who lives at an address the abuser doesn’t know.

• Always ask for a police escort if you need to retrieve belongings or return property to your former home.

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