Domestic violence is a war that is frequently conducted in private and, tragically, results in death in the Las Vegas valley.
Despite statistics showing a decrease in DV reports, officials claim the figures are misleading.
According to The Shade Tree, the state’s only 24/7 emergency shelter for DV and human trafficking victims, one in every four women and one in every seven men will experience it in their lifetime. Shakina Johnson is included in this statistic.
She described herself as a “hostage” in her own house for the previous three years before arriving to Nevada earlier this year from across the nation.
“I had my door kicked in, I got a broken collar bone and my jaw realigned,” Johnson said through tears on The Shade Tree campus Thursday evening. “I was awakened by my service dog licking me in the face, and I was in a pool of blood.”
She stated she had been beaten to the bone, emotionally and financially abused, and cut off from the rest of the world for far too long. She got the courage to leave her violent relationship after a brief trip in jail, which she blamed on the relationship, thanks to a program within detention.
But it wasn’t simple, and she recognizes the complex mental processes of perhaps thousands of individuals who are still in their DV scenario.
“I have PTSD, and my heart is compassionate to help others, and I don’t wish that hurt or harm or danger on my worst enemy, because nobody can fathom that type of pain,” Johnson said through tears while she spoke to 8 News Now. “I had to love myself, and the self of me they didn’t take is the self of me that pushed me forward to be the best that I can be.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 16,030 DV instances were recorded in Clark County alone in 2022. Despite a 36% decline from last year and the lowest number since at least 2019, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department reported 20 DV incidents that resulted in murder this year. So far in 2022, it is tied for the main cause of murder in its jurisdiction.
Furthermore, The Shade Tree CEO Linda Perez, a 10-year veteran of DV and human trafficking assistance and a survivor herself, believes that the stated number of DV disputes is “skewed.” Other survivors, she claims, do not speak out about the abuse they face, often for years or, in severe cases, until it kills them.
“Domestic violence isn’t just about physical abuse. It’s mental, it’s emotional, verbal, financial,” Perez said on The Shade Tree campus Thursday evening. “They’re in a relationship where that’s supposed to be the person that protects them and loves them… You could be this amazing strong woman, but when you’re emotionally abused, all of that goes away.”
The humiliation and embarrassment that keep some victims from coming out are insufficient to drown out the memory of those who died as a result of DV.
50 Shade Tree personnel and customers gathered on the campus Thursday afternoon for the organization’s third annual candlelight vigil, which was designed to memorialize those who did not make it out in time and those who did but are now trying to help others move on.
Paper bags bearing the names of persons slain in DV relationships lined the walk to an altar where Johnson and Perez presented personal experiences about their abuse or the abuse of others they formerly knew.
After that, employees and clients gathered at the intersection of Owens Avenue and Main Street, holding flameless candles. Purple ribbons were placed around the shelter’s outer fencing to represent loved ones who had died in recent years.
The toughest aspect of escaping, according to Perez, is taking the first step. She wants individuals who read or watch her tale and identify as a DV victim to know that assistance is available if they ask for it.
“I want to say that you’re not alone, that there is a resource, that there is no judgment or shame. Reach out to us. Please call us. Even if you’re not ready to come into the shelter, start those conversations with us,” she said. “Let us start safety planning. Ask us questions. Just call us to ask for information and we will be here when you’re ready.”
The Shade Tree’s emergency crisis hotline is available at 1-855-385-0072. All other interests in the shelter can be addressed on its website.
Copyright 2022 702 Times, NV Globe. All rights reserved.
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