What widespread act of domestic and intimate partner violence often leaves no visible sign of injury, yet contributes to 10 percent of violent deaths in the United States? Strangulation.
It can take only 10 seconds, under a slight 11 pounds of pressure, for a strangulation victim to lose consciousness. Death can follow in five minutes or less. Related health symptoms and even loss of life can occur years later.
The fact is that strangulation is one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence. As mentioned in the August-September 2014 issue of the Domestic Violence Report, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence conducted a statewide survey on strangulation in 2011 and found the following regarding the 151 survivors who participated:
- 72.8 percent of the participants had been previously strangled
- 79.3 percent reported being strangled more than once
- 66.4 percent reported being strangled to the point of unconsciousness
- 84.1 percent reported also being physically assaulted other than strangulation
- most (75.5 percent) did not seek, and few received, medical attention.
A few years ago, I had the honor of attending a criminal justice center planning session that was addressed by Casey Gwinn, JD, former San Diego, California, prosecutor and president of the National Family Justice Center Alliance. It was the first time I heard anyone so strongly equate strangulation with attempted murder. The more I learn about this issue, the more I believe Gwinn is spot-on.
As stated in the Domestic Violence Report article (Gwinn is a contributing author as well as editor or the issue), “Survivors of non-fatal strangulation have known for years what prosecutors and civil attorneys are only recently learning: Many domestic violence offenders and rapists do not strangle their partners to kill them; they strangle them to let them know they can kill them—any time they wish.”
Domestic violence impacts entire family units, including children. An estimated 1 in 15 children in the United States are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90 percent of them actually witness violent acts. Because domestic violence has such a strong impact on children, many states allow additional charges of child abuse to be filed against persons who commit acts of domestic violence in the presence of a child.
Gwinn states a frightening truth in the following video for the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention: When a man attempts to strangulate a woman even once, the likelihood of him attempting to later kill her goes up 700 percent… (and)the likelihood of him actually killing her goes up 800 percent.”
The terrifying cases presented in the video are strong indicators of future violent crimes. “When we see cases of strangulation, they should go to the top of the list,” Gwinn states. “They should be THE most significant cases we prosecute.”
As Gwinn says in his video, “What’s going on inside is much more significant that what you can see outside.” He goes on to explain how a small red spot on the skin caused by broken blood vessels may be a sign that there is further internal damage, possibly even brain damage.
It’s of vital importance that prosecutors, law enforcement, and others involved in domestic violence cases understand the severity of strangulation and the impact it has when committed in the presence of children. Strangulation is not merely an act of control and manipulation. It is, in fact, a direct and actionable threat to kill.
Wisconsin Medical Journal: https://www.evawintl.org/Library/DocumentLibraryHandler.ashx?id=540
Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention: http://www.strangulationtraininginstitute.com/
Domestic Violence Report: http://www.civicresearchinstitute.com/pdfs/DVR1906.pdf
Family Justice Center: http://www.familyjusticecenter.org/
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: http://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics
NOLO: Criminal Defense Lawyer: http://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/legal-encyclopedia/domestic-violence-laws-penalties.html
BeAKidsHero™ is an initiative to educate parents, teachers and other caring adults around the globe about protecting the children in their lives from abuse and neglect. Founded by Child Advocate and Child Forensic Interviewer Ginger Kadlec, www.beakidshero.com spotlights child protection best practices and tips, as well as features a host of resources and information about issues related to child abuse awareness, prevention and intervention ranging from child sexual abuse facts and prevention to cyberbullying, sextortion and Internet safety. Parents are invited to participate in a free three-part video training series about protecting kids of all ages from sexual abuse. To enroll, visit www.sexualabusepreventionsystem.com.
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