Statewide annual report details at least 91 fatal domestic violence-related deaths in 2021
More action on judicial training, firearm relinquishment, and resources for law enforcement and advocates recommended to help prevent tragedy
Jan. 6, 2023 (DENVER) — At least 91 people died in Colorado in 2021 in domestic violence-related incidents, according to a report from the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board that the Attorney General’s Office released today. At least 45 of those who died were victims killed by their intimate partners, 14 were collateral victims, and 32 were perpetrators. Of the collateral victims, four were children.
This was the highest number of domestic violence fatalities in Colorado since the board was created in 2017 and began its work researching and tracking domestic violence-related deaths in the state.
As in past years, the identified domestic violence fatality victims were overwhelmingly female (88%) and perpetrators overwhelmingly male (90%). And, consistent with past findings, guns were the weapon used in 81% of the domestic violence fatalities in 2021 and all collateral victim deaths identified were caused by guns.
Last year’s report was the first to consider domestic violence fatality rates when controlling for population size, and this year’s report similarly found that in 2021, domestic violence fatalities occurred disproportionately in rural counties.
“We must continue to act decisively to reduce the number of people killed due to domestic violence.” said Attorney General Phil Weiser, who chairs the board. “We can do so by continuing to limit domestic violence perpetrators’ access to firearms, increasing judicial training, and offering added resources for advocates and law enforcement. We are committed to working collaboratively with our partners to prevent domestic violence fatalities and the related trauma that tragically impacts family members, friends, and our communities.”
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 legislature reauthorized the board for another five years in 2022. Previous recommendations have resulted in specific actions, which are highlighted in this year’s report.
Recommendations in this year’s report include the following:
- Expand domestic violence training opportunities for judicial officers: Judicial officers are in a unique position to intervene and respond to domestic violence. The prevalence of domestic violence issues in the courts presents an important opportunity for judges to act in a trauma-informed manner and to make evidence-based decisions, ultimately leading to better outcomes for victims while assuring public safety.
- Invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts that improve the response to domestic violence statewide. Due to unequal access to services and resources, the board recommends that the Colorado General Assembly appropriate necessary funds to support recruitment and retention at the agencies and organizations that provide initial response functions to domestic violence, with a particular focus on encouraging efforts to recruit and retain individuals with diverse backgrounds. This is a critical step in creating greater trust between providers of initial response functions and victims of domestic violence.
- Invest in strategies that ensure firearm relinquishment that can improve victim, officer, and public safety. One tool critical to stopping gun violence toward intimate partners and the community at-large is firearm relinquishment statutes, yet firearm relinquishment does not always occur. The board recommends greater investment in strategies to enforce existing laws which can improve victim, officer, and public safety and that the Legislature provide funding to jurisdictions to support firearm relinquishment strategies.
Specific findings from the report include:
- In 2021, 52% of the identified domestic violence fatalities involved couples currently or formerly dating, while 48% of cases involved couples who were currently or formerly married.
- Of the cases involving dating or formerly dating couples, at least seven involved victims and/or perpetrators under age 21 which highlights the risks involved in teen dating violence.
- In domestic violence fatality cases in which the domestic violence perpetrator died, 72% of perpetrators died by suicide and 78% of these cases involved at least one additional fatality.
In accordance with state law, § 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 & Behavioral Health & 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.
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