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Las Vegas has a domestic violence problem, but you can help

I’m mad, Las Vegas. You should be, too.

I don’t know how to emphasize it more than I already have, in previous columns, in the many articles my co-workers and I have written: Domestic violence is a critical issue in our community.

Sound the alarm and shout it from the rooftops, because we need to do something.

In the last two weeks, at the county courthouse, I’ve covered three domestic death cases. First was the sentencing of David Dinunzio, who strangled his mother. Then came the sentencing of Mason Fritz, who stabbed his father.

And on Thursday, Lisa Hollopeter, 35, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter instead of murder for shooting her boyfriend. Prosecutors extended the plea deal in part because her boyfriend was abusive, her attorney said.

Those are just homicides. Check the TV screens displaying courtroom dockets at the Regional Justice Center any day of the week and you will see, at least once a day, a case involving some sort of domestic violence charge. Oftentimes there are several.

The handful of murder-suicides that rocked headlines this summer never even made the boards, because the victims and their killers both ended up dead, erased from the community’s collective memory.

We are one of the worst cities and worst counties in the country for domestic violence. Do you care?

“The biggest question that I get is: Why? Why is it so bad here?” Liz Ortenburger, the CEO of Safe Nest, the state’s largest domestic violence charity, told me this week. “As a community, we could invest some pretty good research dollars as to why it’s so bad here. But until then, those of us that work in the domestic violence field are wondering what we can do.”

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police Department honored 21 people who died because of domestic violence between July 31, 2016, and June 30. Last year, a similar event honored 32 victims.

“From a societal perspective, I think the first question is why doesn’t the victim leave?” Ortenburger said. “Really, what we have is a situation where a batterer uses power and control to get what they want from the victim. The point in which a victim is murdered is generally when they are trying to leave.”

But you’ve heard that before, right? I know I have. Yet the problem persists.

“Most of us have somebody in our lives who is being affected by domestic violence, and either we’re not noticing or we don’t know how to help,” she said.

As a third party, you can always call the domestic violence hotline, 702-646-4981, to report what you’ve seen or heard and ask for suggestions or resources.

You can also donate clothes, shoes and small appliances to Safe Nest, which will send a donation truck to you if you call 702-257-3800.

If you are seeking help, Metro is working with several organizations to open the collaborative Family Justice Center by Jan. 1. It will serve as a one-stop shop for everything related to sexual assault and domestic violence. There, victims will be able to report incidents or anonymously get referrals for counseling and therapy.

Metro also is launching a pilot program called “Project 417” — the dispatch code for a domestic incident. The program sends a volunteer domestic violence advocate to each domestic call, all hours of the day.

“Once the scene is safe,” Ortenburger said, “then our advocates would have access to whoever lodged the call, to just sit with them, to do that advocate work, which a lot of times is just listening.”

That’s because victims often feel isolated.

Don’t be afraid to lend them your ear.

Vegas Vice runs every other Saturday. Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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