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Advocates: COVID-19 crisis worsening domestic abuse

Posted at 1:56 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 12:41:57-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Advocates for domestic violence survivors say the COVID-19 crisis is the perfect storm for domestic abusers and their victims.

SafeNest is a local nonprofit committed to ending domestic violence. CEO Liz Ortenburger says they saw a spike in calls the day the "Stay at Home" order was put in place and have seen a steady increase since then. She predicts the worst is yet to come.

“Whenever the quarantine is eased or lifted or it goes on longer, we are gong to see such a spike of domestic violence that we as an agency have to be ready to serve that,” Ortenburger said.

Ortenburger says there are two critical factors that should tell a victim they need to get out of their home.

“If there’s violence, there’s a gun in the home, and now there’s financial stress... your chances of homicide are escalating. If strangulation or choking are part of the domestic violence you’ve experienced, your escalation towards homicide is also growing,” Ortenburger added.

Safe Nest’s hotline remains on standby 24 hours a day. With a lack of hotel resources, the nonprofit is helping families find safe spaces through Shared Village.

Healthcare providers at Sunrise Hospital have seen a decrease in hospital visits. They fear it’s not because there is a lack of violence, but a lack of reporting and fear or COVID-19.

It’s up to the community, friends, and family to spot signs of abuse and report it. Signs include changed behavior and bruising.

“Maybe for a toddler you’d expect bruising on the knees and lower legs, but maybe you wouldn’t expect bruising behind the ears or on the lower lip,” said Heather Hurlburt, a registered nurse at Sunrise Children’s Hospital.

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Hurlburt says parents who are having trouble keeping their cool should step away for a few minutes.

“If your baby is crying and you can’t take it anymore, put your baby down. They’re okay to cry by themselves for a minute. Walk away from the situation,” Hurlburt added.

For victims, Ortenburger suggests coming up with a code word with your loved ones. When you say that word on the phone, they’ll know they need to call 911. It’s a good idea to teach your child that code word so they know when to get out of the house and not intervene.

SafeNest offers counseling for victims, batterers and their children. They also have a 24/7 hotline. Call them at 702-646-4981.

For those looking to help, SafeNest is in need of monetary donations.