Statewide report details at least 63 fatal domestic violence-related deaths in 2020
Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board report finds relationship between domestic violence fatalities and economic instability
Jan. 5, 2022 (DENVER) — At least 63 people died in Colorado in 2020 as a result of domestic violence incidents, according to a report from the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board that the Colorado Attorney General’s Office released today.
Of the 63 people who died from a domestic violence incident in 2020, 35 were victims killed by their intimate partners, 4 were collateral victims, and 24 were perpetrators of domestic violence. An additional 15 domestic violence cases in 2020 involved attempted murders or near-deaths. Although total fatalities decreased slightly in 2020 relative to 2019, 2020 had the second-highest number of domestic violence deaths out of the past five years.
The 2021 report found a relationship between domestic violence fatalities and housing instability, and a slightly elevated level of risk for domestic violence fatality and attempted/near-fatality incidents in rural counties. In addition to analyzing fatalities from the preceding year as in past reports, this year’s report also analyzed 35 Colorado cases that were reviewed by domestic violence fatality review teams between 2017 and 2020. Almost half of those cases were preceded by a significant loss in housing for one or both people involved.
Additionally, this year’s report is the first that considered domestic violence fatalities when controlling for population size. The report states fatality risk is likely higher for victims in rural locations because they are often more isolated and their access to transportation and resources is more limited than in urban areas of the state.
“We all must work together to protect and help those who may be suffering in silence, including in rural areas of our state,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser, who chairs the board. “As we are reminded each year while compiling reports and acting on their recommendations, fatality review boards are a critical tool for communities to understand and prevent those deaths and suffering. This coming session of the Colorado General Assembly, the legislature should pass legislation to reauthorize the board to continue its work and to support local and regional domestic violence fatality review teams.”
The Colorado General Assembly established the board in 2017 to examine data on domestic violence fatalities, identify ways to prevent these tragedies, and make policy recommendations to the legislature. The statute that created the board is up for reauthorization in the 2022 legislative session. Previous recommendations have resulted in specific actions, which are highlighted in this year’s report.
Recommendations in this year’s report include the following:
- Increased focus on policies aimed at improving economic stability for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence: This report identified a loss of housing as a risk factor in 49 percent of fatalities reviewed and housing insecurity was identified in one of six cases. In response to this finding, the board recommends forming a sub-committee to determine what policies and resources exist to improve the economic stability of victims and perpetrators and discuss how the board can support those policies. The report also recommends that relatedly, public policy discussions concerning housing, homelessness, and the distribution of government funds for housing should include experts on domestic violence and advocates for victims.
- Explore statutory change in response to teen dating violence and the development of resources for victims and offenders in these cases: The scope of teen dating violence is not adequately documented, which limits the potential interventions to address this issue. The board recommends exploring how cases of teen dating violence are identified in the juvenile court system and how many juveniles are adjudicated for offenses related to relationship abuse. The information will indicate whether legislative action is needed to bring the state juvenile code into line with the adult system mandates for treatment.
- Explore and study the need for enforcing mandates of domestic violence offender treatment following jail-based sentences and pre-release planning that incorporates assessment risk for intimate partner violence and lethality: The lack of information about the consistency with which risk assessments and court-ordered domestic violence offender treatment are being completed needs to be remedied. Assessing risk to victims and ensuring domestic violence perpetrators complete court-ordered treatment is vital to ensuring community safety.
Specific findings from the report include:
- While over half of domestic violence fatalities involved victims killed by their intimate partners (55 percent), perpetrators who died by suicide were significant (24 percent), followed-by perpetrators killed by police (10 percent) and collateral victims (8 percent).
- Firearms are the predominant weapons used in the reviewed cases and are present in over half (54 percent) of the incidents.
- The most common risk factors present in the domestic violence fatality cases were intimate partners who were possessive of their victims (89 percent), had a history of domestic violence assaults and stalking their victims (77 percent), stalked the victim (69 percent), had a pending legal action against them from their intimate partner victim (66 percent), had access to a firearm (60 percent), and were financially dependent on the victim (60 percent).
Per § 24-31-702(4) C.R.S., the report was submitted to the Health and Human Services and Judiciary Committees of the Colorado Senate, and the Public Health Care and Human Services and Judiciary Committees of the Colorado House of Representatives.
This report, as well as a list of domestic violence resources, are available on the Colorado Department of Law website at bit.ly/DVFRB.