One of the most dangerous forms of violence in a relationship is strangulation. Victims of strangulation can die in as little as 3-10 seconds and it requires less force than most people think to cause fatal injuries. Back to the soda can example, the force needed to open that can is twice as much as is needed to close off a victim’s carotid artery. It’s 5 times as much as is needed to close off a victims’ jugular vein. Either of these can cause death or permanent brain damage in less than a minute. (source)
When an abuser puts their hands on the neck of a partner, they are saying to that partner that they are willing to kill. Death may result immediately, 3-21 days later as swelling and aspiration pneumonia set in, or years later with an increased risk of stroke or other cardiovascular consequences.
Besides the physical consequences of strangulation, victims with a history of non-fatal strangulation are six times more likely to be the victim of attempted domestic homicide than someone without that history and seven times as likely to be killed. Of note is that most of these homicides occur with a gun, not by strangulation. (study)
In 2009, Missouri was the first state to make attempting to strangle a partner a 2nd Degree Domestic Assault, a class C felony (MRS Section 565.073) in recognition of the severity of strangulation. Still, public awareness needs to catch up with policy. Victims, their families, and friends need to know how serious an instance of strangulation is, how its consequences can last for years, and the increased risk for homicide. They need to know how to report it, how to care for themselves after the crime, and what to look for in their medical future. They also need to know the realistic risks of their situation and how to protect themselves.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, whether including strangulation or not, please call Crime Victim Advocacy Center at 314-652-3623 for help escaping the abuse.
Comments by Jessica M., Director of Advocacy & Community Services