Advocating for victims of domestic violence |

Advocating for victims of domestic violence

Natalia Vander Laan

Domestic violence can be a hidden crime — victims are often ashamed and do whatever they can to hide the abuse. The victims are burdened with the feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and responsibility for that abuse. Power, coercion, and the need for control drive the abuser to inflict a pattern of systematic physical, emotional, economic, sexual, and verbal abuse in an intimate relationship upon their partner who often bears it in silence.

People you may not suspect of being victims of domestic violence may be a neighbor, an elderly parent, a co-worker, a family member, or even yourself. In fact, anyone in an intimate relationship can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or social standing. Being that domestic violence causes mental anguish, it can be difficult for a victim to seek help before a situation escalates and law enforcement becomes involved bringing the problem to the surface. Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevadan’s Domestic Violence Victim’s Assistance Program (DVVAP) can help victims break free from abusive relationships and help restore both physical safety and emotional peace.

While scenic Nevada is openly beautiful with its majestic vistas, it has an uglier side ranking as one of the worst states in the nation for domestic violence. In fact, according to the latest compiled data published for the calendar year 2017 by the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, Nevada had 47,368 reported victims of domestic violence with 7,094 from Washoe County, 1,089 from Carson City, and 26 from Douglas County. These statistics do not take into account hidden and unreported domestic violence occurrences so, now, think about what the true number of victims would be if they did not bear it in silence.

VARN’s Domestic Violence Victim’s Assistance Program helps victims in all rural Nevada counties (except Washoe County and Clark County) escape abusive relationships by providing free civil legal assistance and services to those braving to come forward including:

Crisis counseling,

Safety planning,

Emergency legal representation to extend/modify protection orders,

Legal representation in divorce, child custody, termination of parental rights and guardianship matters, and

Information and referral to other resources.

To apply for DVVAP services, visit VARN online at or call 775-883-8278 for more information. Please remember that when using the internet for domestic violence related information, it is important to know that an abuser can track your online activity. VARN recommends using a computer at a library or a friend or family member’s house that the abuser does not have access to. Instructions on how to erase browsing history and turn off auto-complete in the address bar are provided at

It is never easy to hear a story about physical or emotional abuse and it is harder yet when you hear it directly from the victim. As a family law attorney and as a pro bono attorney for VARN and NLS, I encounter victims of domestic violence that are in need of help. I am only one of many involved in providing assistance through various organizations to domestic violence victims and know that if I and others like me are no longer there to help, then these women full of fear who courageously seek our assistance will simply be abandoned and continue to be abused. It is not enough to tell the victims of domestic violence what to do. They also need to know that they can do it. They need to hear that they can overcome their fear and, most importantly, they need to know that there are advocates on their side that are ready, willing, and able to help.

Natalia Vander Laan is a Minden attorney practicing estate planning, family law, and workers’ compensation.