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Latest domestic violence numbers in Colorado show gun use in four out of five fatalities

Posted at 11:18 PM, Jan 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-10 01:40:56-05

COLORADO — Colorado's Attorney General's Office released the latest domestic violence fatality numbers this month, showing disturbing statistics of those killed in 2021 and recommendations for legislators to address the problem moving forward.

In 2021, 91 people died in a domestic violence-related incident in Colorado- the highest number since 2016. Of those, 45 were primary victims, 32 were perpetrators, and 14 were collateral victims. The youngest fatality was one month old and the oldest was 91 years old. 88% of victims were women while 90% of perpetrators were men. In four out of five fatalities, the perpetrator used a firearm.

Margaret Abrams, executive director for the Rose Andom Center, played a role in crafting the report as part of the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board. She said the number of collateral victims shows anyone can be affected by domestic violence.

"It's certainly concerning that there's been such a significant spike in domestic violence-related fatalities over the last year," she said. "There are several cases in the 2021 report where the offender killed not only their spouse, or partner, or former partner, but they killed other people as well, whether they were children involved in the relationship or other family members that might have been present."

Domestic violence fatalities occurred disproportionately in rural communities. Gilpin, Baca, Routt, and Montezuma counties had the highest rate of domestic violence fatalities per capita. Monica Rivera, executive director of Violence Free Colorado, said more funding is needed to give those in rural areas more resources.

"There may only be one domestic violence shelter in a county and if that's 100 miles away, it's not super accessible. Especially when you think about how monitored survivors are by their abusers, that for them to just have a very narrow window of time to go and visit with a victim advocate," Rivera said.

The report outlines multiple policy recommendations for state legislators to combat the issue of domestic violence in the state including:

Expanding domestic violence training for judicial officers

The report explains judicial officers have a unique role in intervening and responding to domestic violence situations. Rivera said judicial officers should have mandatory training before making decisions about the lives of survivors.

"Judicial officers are involved in elements of determining whether orders of protection are approved, you know, making decisions about child placement and guardianship, making decisions about sentencing. It's really important that those folks have a really clear understanding of how that issue manifests, that they're not operating from stereotypes or misinformation, or biases," she said.

Investing in firearm relinquishment strategies

The report details that firearms can be used by perpetrators as a fear tactic to exert control over a victim. The report says perpetrators with access to a firearm are five to eight times more likely to kill their victims than those without access. Firearm relinquishment statutes can be used against domestic violence perpetrators to prohibit
them from owning a firearm. Abrams said part of this recommendation is teaching victims the laws surrounding firearm relinquishment and protection orders. She also said law enforcement agencies need more training on how to enforce the laws since they are still new in the state.

"A lot of jurisdictions may still be trying to figure out how to how to enforce those laws and how to have policy and procedure in place to make sure that those cases are identified where an offender may still have access to a firearm," she said.

Creating a full-time law enforcement training position

The review board recommends the legislature create a full-time law enforcement training position within the Department of Law. This position would be responsible for teaching law enforcement intervention in domestic violence situations.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic violence, here is a list of resources in Southern Colorado:

  1. ACES

    • Artists Creating Equitable Solutions focuses on giving victims of domestic violence the tools and creative expression to deal with previous trauma, create risk-taking opportunities, and adaptively cope with stressor impacting their lives.
  2. YWCA

    • The Young Women's Christian Association located in Pueblo, Colorado focuses on eliminating racism and promoting the dignity and empowerment of women in Southern Colorado. The YWCA has a 24-hour crisis line which will be answered by one of their trained advocates to help victims in need. You can call (719) 545-8195
  3. ACOVA

    • A Community Organization for Victim Assistance (ACOVA) is a Pueblo Area organization and hotline set up to serve victims of crime in the Pueblo Area. ACOVA provides on-scene crisis intervention, referrals, and follow-up services. You can call their lines at 719-583-6434 or 719-553-2460 with any questions.
  4. TESSA

    • Tessa is a Colorado Springs-based multi-faceted agency that includes a confidential Safehouse, Victim Advocacy, Counseling and Children’s Programs, a 24/7 Safe Line, and Community Outreach and Education. You can access their emergency/safe line at 719-633-3819
  5. #nicolesarmy

    • Nicoles Army is a private Facebook dedicated to Nicole Stephenson. Stephenson was seriously injured after an assault in late January 2020 and succumbed to her injuries a few weeks later in a Denver hospital on February 19. The group is there for support and to collaborate with lawmakers and enforcers as well as the community and its agencies to achieve cultural and systemic changes to the way domestic violence is viewed and handled.
  6. Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence

    • At Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence the Colorado Springs organization gives survivors and families that have lost a loved one to domestic violence access to a community of survivors and families that understand the journey they are facing.
  7. National Domestic Violence Hotline

    • 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides essential tools and support to help survivors of domestic violence so they can live their lives free of abuse. You can call 1-800-799-7233.

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