PUEBLO — Every minute in our country, 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In Southern Colorado, those with the Pueblo Police Department said they receive calls about domestic violence frequently.
In fact, the standoff that involved SWAT on Monday in Pueblo was actually first sparked by a phone call related to domestic violence. "Our suspicion is that they dialed 911 as they were being assaulted, and it recorded some of the assault," said Sgt. Franklyn Ortega of the Pueblo Police Department.
Jennifer Chavez is the program coordinator for the Victim Assistance Unit, ACOVA, and she referred to domestic violence in Pueblo as an epidemic. "Domestic violence just isn't a personal or family incident like people want to believe, I think it's a community problem," said Chavez. Chavez said ACOVA deals with on-scene crisis intervention for law enforcement.
Chavez said ACOVA helps victims find resources directly after a domestic violence incident, one of which is the YWCA, a shelter. "We don't have anything long term here in our community, and that's kind of sad, a community this size, we only have one shelter... I think there is a lack, there's a lack of housing and long term solutions for victims... What happens after, and I think that's where we are failing as a community," said Chavez.
Chavez said another problem is sometimes the punishment for domestic violence perpetrators. "We see where people are getting maybe just probation, they know that it's a slap on the hand, they know how to manipulate the system... The laws need to be tougher with it and they need to be incarcerated," said Chavez.
The 2018 report from the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board showed 25 people died in 2017 in Colorado as a result of domestic violence. AP reported preliminary numbers for the 2019 report which showed 38 people died in 2018. Chavez said people need to start looking at domestic violence through a different lens. "The question shouldn't be why doesn't she leave, because we hear that all the time. The question should be why does he continue to hit her... Why is that person continuing to hit and to abuse, that should be the question," said Chavez.
Both officials News 5 spoke with said domestic violence is a vicious cycle. "Unfortunately, I'm helping the children of women that I've helped a few years back, and that's heartbreaking," said Chavez. Chavez and Sgt. Ortega said whether or not you are directly involved in an instance of domestic violence, to call 911 if you suspect someone is dealing with it.
The 24/7 crisis hotline for the YWCA shelter in Pueblo is (719)545-8195.