At least a dozen children in Colorado witnessed a loved one die in connection to domestic violence in 2019, which saw a spike in the number of people killed in the state in connection to domestic abuse.
At least 70 Coloradans died in domestic violence incidents in 2019, a 63% increase from the year before and above the five-year average of 50 deaths per year, according to a report released Friday by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
Last year, 43 victims of domestic violence or those close to them were killed by abusive partners, according to the report. Twenty-seven abusers also died in connection to domestic violence, including in police shootings and by suicide.
Most of the those killed by abusers were women killed by male partners. A gun was used in almost two-thirds of all the deaths.
The members of the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, which compiles the report, this year focused on how domestic violence affects children. The report lists several examples of Colorado children witnessing violence or walking into its immediate wake. A 12-year-old girl saw her mother and grandmother’s dead bodies. A 1-year-old baby was shot and injured after her father tried to shoot her mother, but missed. One girl heard gunfire and ran out into her yard to find her mother’s body and her father with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“These numbers represent 19 children–19 children who are affected by the loss of one or both parents, 19 children who may have witnessed death, and 19 children who have experienced physical danger and trauma with direct consequences to their physical and mental health,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser wrote in the report.
The fatality review board made several recommendations to prevent more domestic violence deaths, including implementing domestic violence training for child care and school staff as well as improving healthcare providers’ screening for domestic violence.
The board also applauded efforts to remove guns from domestic violence perpetrators, including the state’s red flag law and a program run by the Denver District Attorney’s Office.
“Given the demonstrated effectiveness of these laws and programs, the CDVFRB asserts that Colorado needs to continue working to enhance policies and practices designed to keep firearms out of the hands of DV perpetrators, as required by existing state and federal laws,” the report states. “Such policies should not be viewed as anti-gun, but as rather seen as preventative measures that increase both victim and community safety.”
The authors also urged the need for more safe and affordable housing and other social programs that help victims and perpetrators meet basic needs and find stability.
Those resources will be especially important during the coronavirus pandemic, the authors wrote. Early data indicate that domestic violence has spiked in several Colorado communities during the coronavirus pandemic as people spend more time in their homes and economic instability increases.
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