Tuesday, January 23, 2018

National Experts Present on Strangulation in Domestic Violence Cases

New research has confirmed a stronger-than-previously-known link between strangulation and the likelihood that an offender will kill or nearly kill someone during a domestic violence incident.

Domestic violence-related police calls constitute the single largest category of calls received by police, accounting for 15 to more than 50 percent of all calls.[1] When police officers respond, they know the situation can be volatile for both them and the abuser’s victim: The killer in almost one third of female homicides is an intimate partner. And from 2010-2014, 22% of law enforcement officer "line of duty" deaths occurred while responding to a call for service involving a domestic dispute.

More than 100 attended the training, including law enforcement,
attorneys, treatment providers and victim advocates.
On Jan. 16, 2018, Colorado's Domestic Violence Offender Management Board (DVOMB) hosted a pair of national domestic violence experts to explain the strangulation research and provide training to a wide audience of professionals who deal with domestic violence, including law enforcement, prosecutors, treatment providers, supervisors of offenders, and victim advocates.

During the half-day training, national experts Casey Gwinn and Gael Strack, Co-Founders of Alliance for HOPE International and the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, covered:

  • Findings from a study of 300 misdemeanor strangulation cases
  • The lethality of strangulation
  • Identifying the signs and symptoms of strangulation cases
  • Anatomy and medical aspects in surviving and non-surviving victims
  • Investigation, documentation, and prosecution of non-fatal strangulation cases as felonies, or attempted homicides
  • Use of experts and court considerations
  • Advocating for victims of strangulation
  • Best practices, new resources and next steps.

Presenters showed how to investigate
and document strangulation cases.
"Strangulation has been identified as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence and sexual assault: unconsciousness may occur within seconds and death within minutes. When domestic violence perpetrators choke (strangle) their victims, not only is this felonious assault, but it may be an attempted homicide," Gwinn and Strack explained. "Strangulation is an ultimate form of power and control, where an offender can demonstrate control over the victim’s next breath. It may have devastating psychological effects or a potentially fatal outcome."

Even if a victim survives strangulation, s/he is vastly more likely to die during a future incident; surviving victims of strangulation assault are 750% more likely to become a homicide victim. (Glass, et al., 2008)

In August 2017, the DVOMB updated its policies to recommend that the professionals who treat and supervise offenders apply a higher-risk approach to offenders who have engaged in strangulation; in 2016, the Colorado legislature passed legislation that allows prosecutors to pursue felony charges in cases of first and second degree assault where evidence of strangulation is present because of the physical, neurological, and psychological health consequences for victims of  strangulation and the increased risk for domestic violence fatalities.

For more information, visit the DVOMB web site.

[1] Source: Friday, P., V. Lord, M. Exum, and J. Hartman. “Evaluating the Impact of a Specialized Domestic Violence Police Unit.” National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, May 2006.

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