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Housing instability, firearms among risk factors in domestic violence deaths, statewide data shows

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Calls to a domestic violence crisis line in Fort Collins went up 40% in 2020, with early estimates showing another 20% jump in 2021.

Most domestic violence related fatalities in Colorado involve a firearm, and rural populations are the most vulnerable. That’s according to a recent statewide report by the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board.

There were 63 domestic violence-related deaths reported in Colorado in 2020 — among the highest in the last five years.

The report also highlighted a strong correlation between these types of fatalities and housing instability.

"One of the greatest deterrents to leaving an abusive relationship is the threat of homelessness," said Pam Jones, executive director of Crossroads Safehouse in Fort Collins. "When they decide to leave, frequently, they have no control over household finances — that has been taken away, and there are a multitude of other concerns such as children, fear of retaliation and sometimes that's life-threatening."

Loss of housing was identified as a risk factor in 50% of cases. Most victims were killed by their intimate partners.

The COVID-19 pandemic was hard on households nationally and worldwide, with rates of domestic violence rising by an average of 8%. Locally in Fort Collins, crisis calls to Crossroads Safehouse went up 40% in 2020. And early estimates show another 20% jump last year.

Jones said unemployment, mental health struggles and mounting stress contributed to tensions.

“And then of course that intensity has brought more lethality cases — cases where a life is threatened — and we saw six a year prior to the pandemic. Now we have and still see three to four a week,” she said.

Although the numbers are high, Jones says they’re likely a fraction of the total domestic violence threats and incidents occurring. Domestic violence among LGTBQ+, Black and Indigenous communities is likely underreported, and perpetrators of violence in the home may use intimidation to repress calls for help.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, you can call Crossroads Safehouse’s crisis line at 970-482-3502 or 881-541-7233. You can also reach out at crossroadssafehouse.org.

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