Domestic (or Family) violence is a serious social problem, especially because of the ongoing impact of violence on children. Family violence cuts across all cultural, economic, racial and gender divisions.
The Family Violence Unit (“FVU”) of the Denver District Attorney's Office is a specialized unit that prosecutes all felony cases involving the physical and sexual abuse of children. Additionally, the FVU is responsible for the prosecution of all felonies involving domestic violence, including homicides, physical assaults, sexual assaults, stalking cases, burglaries, trespass and offenses relating to violation of orders of protection.
The prosecutors, advocates, and investigators assigned to this unit have specialized training and expertise in prosecuting some of the most challenging cases in the office, and they are committed to handling them with discretion and compassion for victims. Members of the FVU recognize that it is often difficult for victims to report intimate partner violence or child abuse, and they are dedicated to ensuring that victims and their families are protected and able to regain some control over their lives while their voices are heard in the criminal justice process.
The District Attorney’s Office works through partnerships with various community agencies to ensure a coordinated multi-agency response to domestic violence in order to provide victims with access to all possible services and resources. The District Attorney’s Family Violence Early Intervention Program and DA victim advocates connect victims of domestic violence with needed resources as quickly as possible, utilizing a triage approach and coordinating with the agencies such as the Rose Andom Center, a multi-agency, safe location in downtown Denver that combines community and law enforcement resources and referrals to support victims of domestic violence. Professionals at the Rose Andom Center are available to assist with safety planning, to connect victims with community-based assistance, and to help victims better understand the criminal justice system.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of physical, verbal, emotional, and/or sexual abuse in which a person attempts to intimidate, dominate, control, punish, or seek revenge against another person with whom they have an ongoing (or past) intimate relationship. The pattern, or cycle, repeats and can occur repeatedly during a relationship. Over time, the level of violence frequently increases.
Domestic violence can take many forms. It can happen all the time or just once in awhile. The following are examples of domestic violence:
- Physical assault - hitting, pushing, shoving, slapping, choking, kicking, grabbing, beating, tripping, biting, use of a weapon, punching;
- Sexual assault – sexual activity without permission which can be physically forced, done through threats or intimidation, or happen when a person is too intoxicated or under the influence of any substance to agree to sexual activity;
- Stalking – a pattern of conduct in which threats are used to intimate or harass, or which results in serious emotional distress to a person;
- Strangulation – putting hands around a person’s neck or cutting off breathing in order to control, intimidate and/or harm that person;
- Threats to assault or to do something harmful to someone, or to someone close to that person;
- Forced isolation - controlling where someone goes or who a person is allowed to see, and/or not allowing someone to have contact with family or friends;
- Economic abuse - preventing someone from getting a job or keeping a job, controlling all the finances, withholding money, requiring someone to ask for money and/or to justify spending money; or
- Using children – threats to take away a person’s children and/or to harm the children in order to control or intimidate that person.
What are domestic violence crimes?
The Colorado legislature has defined domestic violence as any act or threatened act of violence on a person with whom the actor is or was involved with in an intimate relationship.
State law defines an intimate relationship as any type of romantic relationship, past or present, between couples. This encompasses virtually all types of couples including married and unmarried couples, same gender couples, couples who were dating, couples who have lived together, couples who have had children together, couples who are still together and couples who are no longer together. There is no time factor in the definition and there is no requirement that the couple be or were sexually intimate.
Domestic violence also includes any other crime against either a person or property when the offender is acting to coerce, control, punish, intimidate or is seeking revenge against the victim.
Some of the common crimes involving domestic violence include:
- Sexual assault
- Violation of a protection (restraining) order
- False imprisonment
- Criminal mischief
- Harassment or stalking
Domestic Violence Victim Assistance Resources
There are many community resources available to assist domestic violence victims and their families. Please see our resource guide for a general list of services.
This is not a comprehensive list so make sure you also contact your victim advocate for additional services or if you are looking for a program that is not found on this list.
Additionally, there are resources to help with obtaining a protection (restraining) order.
Domestic Violence FAQs
It is very common for victims of crime to be anxious about the criminal justice process. It may be helpful to talk with your Victim Advocate about your specific concerns. Your advocate can help advise you. Threats should be reported right away because it may be appropriate to file additional charges and to take additional safety planning steps. There is also helpful resource information that may ease some fear.
Every case is different, and in some cases children do testify. If a child does have to testify, he or she will have the opportunity to prepare for the experience with the guidance of the prosecutor, victim advocate and others. The preparation may include "court school" which is an opportunity for children to see a courtroom and learn about the process before trial.
No -- abusive people have control over their behavior. Their use of violent or threatening behavior is a choice and not the result of something you do or don't do. People who are abusive tend to see violence as an acceptable way to solve problems and control others.
Domestic violence includes threatened physical harm, stalking, intimidation, emotional abuse such as name calling and put-downs, forced isolation and any other crime including property crimes when the offender is acting coerce, control, punish, intimidate or seek revenge.
Abusive behavior is often a long-standing pattern. Even if an abusive person expresses remorse and a desire to change, the batterer is likely to revert to former patterns without specialized counseling and monitoring. Court- ordered intervention can be a way to make sure the new tools and the support system is in place to effect real change.
Some batterers do have a substance abuse problem, but treating the substance abuse doesn't mean the domestic violence will end. It simply means there is an addiction problem AND a domestic violence problem.
Studies have shown that children are more aware of domestic violence and abuse than parents think. Even if they don't directly witness the abuse they often hear the arguments, threats and violence. Children are often fearful, anxious or even confused even if they don't express these feelings directly. They are also learning about how adults deal with problems and anger by watching you.
If the police are called to a domestic violence location there must be probable cause to make an arrest. An arrest is not automatic. However, if a police officer believes that a crime involving domestic violence has been committed then the officer is mandated to arrest the person suspected of committing the offense.
When presented with conflicting stories about what has happened, the officer is authorized to consider prior complaints of domestic violence, injuries, the likelihood of future injuries, and whether one of the parties acted in self-defense.
An officer is also authorized to use every reasonable means to protect the victim and any children such as transporting the victim and/or children to a shelter.
It is the District Attorney's Office that files cases and pursues them -- not victims or witnesses. Each case is prosecuted based on the totality of evidence available and the circumstances of the criminal act. You may at some point need to come to court. It is also possible that you will be asked to testify. If so, you will have a Victim Advocate who will meet with you ahead of time.
If you have been the victim of a crime, you may be eligible for crime victim compensation. Some financial assistance to victims of crime is available through the Crime Victim Compensation Fund. Victim compensation may help pay for medical expenses, mental health counseling, loss of wages due to injury, funeral expenses, repair or replacement of residential doors, locks and windows.
Unfortunately, the program cannot consider claims for property loss and damage, rent and other personal bills, moving expenses or loss of cash.
For more information about the crime victim fund, click here.
Making the decision to leave is a big step and statistics show it can be the most dangerous time. If a batterer senses a loss of control over you or the relationship it can prompt the batterer to escalate the abuse. This shouldn't discourage a decision to leave, but it emphasizes the need for developing a safety plan, talking about your plan with friends or co-workers, identifying resources and support systems, and focusing on staying safe.