Relationship violence is not OK. This is a statement that few would argue with because most hold a shared belief that everyone has a fundamental right to be safe and live free from violence.
But how often does it actually happen? It’s not as bad as it used to be, right? Isn’t that just a problem for low-income areas in populated cities? Bad things happen to good people all the time, so why is this issue one that you should take action in addressing? These questions are common among those of us that don’t have – or don’t realize we have – a direct link to an abusive relationship.
But what if the problem isn’t rare? What if it isn’t happening less? What if it doesn’t just happen in “that community” to “those people”? What if it’s a widespread epidemic that is negatively impacting the communities in which we all live, work, play and raise children? What if it produced violence that harmed – and in some cases killed – bystanders that weren’t involved in the relationship?
Would that change your mind? Would you be willing to Stand Up and do something about it?
It Happens…a lot
Over the course of our lifetimes, 1 in 7 of us in Colorado will experience relationship violence1. Stop and think about that for a second. That’s enough people to fill Broncos Stadium at Mile High 10 times or sell out 42 Nuggets home games. It’s greater than the entire populations of Denver, Castle Rock, Grand Junction and Steamboat Springs – combined.
“It’s astonishing when you think about it,” said Ellen Stein Wallace, Campaign Manager for Stand Up Colorado. “Just picture seven of your closest friends or family members. Odds are that at least one of them has experienced relationship violence.”
Organizations serving people who have experienced relationship violence have first-hand experience as to how common abusive relationships are. Domestic violence hotlines in Colorado receive an average of 14 calls every hour. Each day they are unable to provide services to over 250 people experiencing relationship violence due to a lack of resources2.
Still think it is rare?
It’s Still a Problem
Decades of work by advocates, researchers and awareness campaigns has helped shed light on relationship violence and the services that are available to survivors. This has led to an increase in the number of cases being reported to law enforcement – which is a good thing in itself – but has also illustrated a steady increase in incidents over the past two decades.
The 18,501 criminal relationship violence incidents that were reported in 2016 was nearly a 200 percent increase from those reported in 1997. Additionally, the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) attributed 48 deaths to relationship violence in 2016 – tying for the most in one year since they began tracking these cases in 1998.3
“Those 48 victims were beloved family members, friends, co-workers and our neighbors,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, a strategic partner of Stand Up Colorado.
Still think it’s no longer a problem?
It Happens Everywhere
Although a preliminary Stand Up Colorado survey – conducted by the Center for Policy Research – showed that over 93 percent of respondents recognized that relationship violence affected many people, more than 1 in 3 believed that it rarely occurred in their neighborhood4. That is one of the greatest myths surrounding this topic – that it happens, but only to other people in other communities.
“Society has taught us that relationship violence happens to a specific group of people,” said Denver resident Laura Schwinkendorf, “but when you look at the facts, it happens to people of every age, race, gender, sexual orientation, income-level and occupation.”.
Stereotypes of relationship violence have been perpetuated for decades by our media, culture and social attitudes. Research and anecdotal evidence, however, overwhelmingly conclude that it doesn’t just occur in urban, low-income communities. People who experience relationship violence aren’t all powerless individuals with no career or education. People who use abusive behaviors aren’t all alcoholic drug-addicts with anger problems. There is not a single segment of the population that doesn’t have people who are experiencing relationship violence or using abusive behaviors.
Of the 64 counties in Colorado, 25 have seen at least one homicide connected to relationship violence since the Denver Metro Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board began tracking in 2012. Although 34 percent of these incidents occurred in the densely-populated urban centers of Denver and Colorado Springs, on a per-capita basis they occur at more than twice the rate in rural areas such as Routt, Park and Garfield counties5.
Still think it only happens to other people in other communities?
It Affects All of Us
“It impacts entire families and communities,” Coffman said, “not just the individuals that are directly involved. We see the consequences of relationship violence on a regular basis. We see all of the side-effects. We see all of the collateral impacts of relationship violence and we know it’s costly.”
Of the 211 lives lost in Colorado since 2012 in incidents connected to relationship violence, 27 were considered collateral deaths that had no connection to the abusive relationship5. They were simply people that were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Although many forms of abuse aren’t criminal, the U.S. Department of Justice found that physical relationship violence alone is accountable for 15 percent of all violent crime in the United States6. That includes 72 percent of murder-suicides7 and over half of mass shootings8.
Relationship violence also has a huge impact on the most vulnerable in our society – children and pets. An estimated 15.5 million kids in America live in homes where relationship violence has occurred in the past year9, while the Humane Society attributes over 13% of intentional animal abuse cases to relationship violence10.
Still think it doesn’t impact you?
You Can Make a Difference
The good news is that it’s not inevitable. It is preventable. Together, we can create a future in Colorado free from relationship violence.
“That’s where the community comes in and that’s where (Stand Up Colorado) comes in,” said Denver City Attorney and Stand Up Colorado strategic partner Kristin M. Bronson. “The result will be a sense of community ownership around prevention and supportive environments for those engaging in abusive behavior to seek help for themselves or for others to intervene.”
You have the power to make a difference in your community and across Colorado. Stand Up and join the Movement today at http://standupcolorado.org/join-the-movement/.
1 Violence Free Colorado.
2 National Network to End Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence Counts: Colorado Summary (2016).
3 Colorado Bureau of Investigations. 2016 Colorado Domestic Violence Report (2017).
4 Center for Policy Research. 2017 Stand Up Colorado Baseline Survey (2018).
5 Denver Metro Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee. 2016 Summary of Domestic Violence Related Fatalities in Colorado (2017).
6 U.S. Department of Justice. Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003-2012 (2014).
7 Violence Policy Center. American Roulette: Murder-Suicide in the United States (2012).
8 Everytown for Gun Safety. Mass Shootings in the United States: 2009-2016 (2017).
9 Journal of Family Psychology. Estimating the Number of American Children Living in Partner-Violent Families (2006).
10 The Humane Society of the United States. 2000 Report of Animal Cruelty Cases (2001).