Colorado domestic violence fatalities reach record high in 2022, annual report reveals
Oct. 23, 2023 (DENVER) — The number of domestic violence fatalities set an all-time high in 2022 according to a comprehensive report from the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board (CDVFRB) released today by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
In 2022, domestic violence-related incidents claimed at least 94 lives in Colorado. Among these, 39 were killed by their current or former intimate partners, and 22 were collateral victims, including six children and two peace officers. In fact, the only two peace officers who lost their lives while serving the people of Colorado in 2022 were killed when responding to domestic violence incidents, underscoring the importance of preparing officers for this critical and dangerous responsibility.
The total number of fatalities was nearly 1.5 times higher than the average number of fatalities over the CDVFRB’s seven years of data collection. In addition, the volume of collateral fatalities was extraordinarily high relative to years past, emphasizing the lethal threat of domestic violence often extends beyond domestic violence victims and to the entire community.
The report analyzes 62 cases where a domestic violence fatality occurred in 2022 and 16 cases considered by local domestic violence fatality review teams in 2021 and 2022. According to the analysis, 97% of the domestic violence victims were female and 95% of the perpetrators were male in 2022, highlighting the gendered nature of these crimes.
Consistent with previous CDVFRB reports, firearms were the leading cause of death in domestic violence fatality cases. 86% of the domestic violence fatalities were the result of firearm injuries. All domestic violence perpetrator fatalities involved guns, while 73% of the domestic violence victim fatalities and 86% of the collateral fatalities were due to gunshot wounds.
Attorney General Phil Weiser, who chairs the CDVFRB, expressed his deep concern, stating, “The 2023 report serves as a sobering reminder of the critical work we all must undertake to combat domestic violence in our state. The numbers are alarming and should catalyze action. This report provides a stark reminder that domestic violence continues to be a serious threat, primarily to women, and all Coloradans must work toward greater gender equality and more robust efforts to prevent domestic violence.”
The CDVFRB is focusing broadly on domestic violence prevention for its work in 2024, in addition to the following specific recommendations included in the report:
- Expand the use of risk assessment tools in organizations that work directly with domestic violence survivors. The report underscores the importance of courts, advocacy agencies, law enforcement, and others using these tools. They help create a common understanding of safety risks, enabling the community to respond to the needs of adults and children affected by domestic violence consistently and effectively. The board recommends conducting a thorough survey to evaluate the current state of risk assessment in Colorado. The goal is to establish a set of best practices and principles for consistent use, ultimately leading to statewide measures for improving the safety and security of survivors.
- Provide firearms relinquishment investigation support for a limited pilot program in Colorado through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Given the pervasiveness of guns in the domestic violence fatality cases, the board continues to recommend greater investment in the enforcement of Colorado’s existing firearm relinquishment procedures. Specifically, the development of a pilot program through CBI that fosters collaboration between prosecutors, law enforcement, and the defense bar helps ensure Colorado’s relinquishment statutes are enforced.
- Increase collaboration and partnership with the Maternal Mortality Prevention Program, Child Fatality Review Board, and the Office of Suicide Prevention. While these entities focus on different challenges, the intersection between their work and the work of CDVFRB can increase the ability of the board to identify and analyze domestic violence fatalities more comprehensively.
Additional findings from the report include:
- Nearly a quarter of collateral fatalities in 2022 were minors with communities losing six children ages 16 and under.
- In domestic violence fatality cases in which the domestic violence perpetrator died, 70% of perpetrators died by suicide, but perpetrators were also killed by law enforcement, victims, and bystanders.
- Few social and institutional players knew of the underlying domestic violence in cases analyzed by local domestic violence fatality review teams. Additionally, a quarter of the ultimate domestic violence fatality victims had prior domestic violence arrests, though none resulted in convictions. The relatively high arrest rate of the ultimate victim, coupled with the lack of any resulting convictions, suggests criminalization of victims may be occurring.
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.
This report, as well as a list of domestic violence resources, are available on the Colorado Department of Law website, including a new way to report domestic violence fatalities as well as a CDVFRB Protocol Manual for starting a local domestic violence fatality review team.
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