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Expert describes the complexities of control in domestic abuse situations

Posted at 10:08 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 01:09:19-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Cases of domestic abuse are as complex and deeply personal as they come.

In a recent case, a Las Vegas mother says she was held hostage by her boyfriend of 11 months and prevented from seeing her 4-year-old son. For weeks, she didn't know where he was and feared he was dead, she told police.

The child's body was found in a freezer in the woman's garage after she sent a note pleading for help to her child's elementary school teacher.

MORE: Mother tells police she was held hostage by boyfriend now accused of killing her son

Neighbors who live near the woman and her boyfriend, since identified as Brandon Toseland, said there were no obvious signs of abuse.

When it comes to abuse, Safe Nest CEO Liz Ortenburger says it's important for people to understand that, "oftentimes, it's the psychological versus the physical."

"It is a choice," Ortenburger said. "This idea that it's blind rage is a myth. You are making a choice to be an abuser."

Abusers can use a variety of methods to control others. Home security cameras are one example, Ortenburger said.

"'I saw the door was open and the UPS guy was there for five minutes. What were you doing?'" is something an abuser might ask, she said.

GPS trackers can be another tool of abuse. People in abusive relationships might find themselves confronted with a question like, "'I've charted your time from work to home. It's a three-and-a-half minute drive; why did it take you five minutes?'" Ortenburger said.

Research shows that 76% of kids who grow up in a house where domestic violence is present will repeat the cycle — either as a victim or a batterer, Ortenburger said. When you look at the effects domestic violence can have on a child, either directly or indirectly, there are common signs the child is suffering and starting to compartmentalize.

"A common coping mechanism for kids is to just go silent and still," Ortenburger said. "The brain effects of watching abuse and receiving abuse are the same."

"If you are creating an environment in your household where your children are looking at you with fear and domestic violence may be happening, we have programs for people perpetrating abuse just like we have programs for people that are surviving," she added.

Resources are available to call or text if you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence or abuse.

You can reach the Crisis Support Services of Nevada hot line at 775-221-7600 or text "SASS" to 839863.

More options and information are available on the CSSNV website here.