New Program Highlights Past Strangulation as a Red Flag for Future Homicides

FREEHOLD – One out of every four women will experience some form of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) over their lifetime and about 10 percent of those victims have experienced near-fatal strangulation by their intimate partner. Victims of domestic violence are more likely to be killed by a partner who has choked or strangled them in the past.

Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni launched a new pilot program Monday aimed at focusing attention on the early warning injuries of strangulation and choking during a domestic violence incident. The new pilot program, known as the “Enhanced Domestic Violence Initiative” (EDVI), provides first responders and law enforcement officers with training to emphasize and enhance an understanding of domestic violence incidents involving the strangulation or choking of a victim and the significant risks associated with non-fatal strangulation incidents.

“Strangulation is one of the deadliest forms of abuse, but there is no data currently available regarding the frequency of strangulation in New Jersey. Anecdotal evidence points to an alarming number of these cases, but the more alarming statistic is that the odds of a homicide being committed after a strangulation incident increases by 750 percent,” Gramiccioni explained.

Nationally, strangulation or asphyxiation, is the fourth leading cause of homicide – only guns, knives and blunt force trauma cause more homicides each year – about 2 percent of the total number of homicides nationwide. Over 12 million cases of domestic violence are reported each year, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Of the 12 million domestic violence victims, 1.5 million women report being strangled or choked during a domestic violence incident in the United States. A survey of victims by Emergency Medicine Journal found 70 percent of victims believed they were going to die during the assault. Females account for 85 percent of the victims of strangulation or choking during a domestic violence incident and 35 percent of strangulation or choking incidents also involve some form of sexual assault or abuse. Pregnant women make up 9 percent of victims of strangulation or choking during a domestic violence incident. In New Jersey, an act of domestic violence happens every 7.29 minutes.

This pilot program is the first in New Jersey to train first responders and law enforcement on the lethality of strangulation in a domestic violence situation, and takes steps to provide awareness to those first responders and law enforcement officers to ensure victims are better aware of the immediate and delayed dangers of strangulation and choking.

Last year (2018), the 180 Turning Lives Around Domestic Violence Hotline received 8-10 calls per month where a victim acknowledged some form of strangulation or choking.

 “Many incidents of strangulation and choking go unreported because a victim can oftentimes rationalize that there are no visible signs of the assault and therefore no reason to report it, but studies show that only 50 percent of victims have visible external injuries. Of those victims, only 15 percent will present visible injuries that can be photographed and only 10 percent of victims will actually seek medical attention overall,” Gramiccioni added.

The pilot program began training first responders and law enforcement officers three months ago to improve the services provided to victims of domestic violence and incorporates specific questions concerning strangulation and choking during the domestic violence incident.

 “We are training first responders in Monmouth County to ask very specific questions about a domestic violence incident, because the lack of visible injury, diminished recollection of the incident by the victim and a poor understanding about the medical significance of strangulation or choking can delay or negate reporting of this important information,” explained John McCabe, Chief of Detectives for the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

In November 2017, the New Jersey State Legislature increased the severity of committing an act of domestic violence using strangulation or choking. The new law elevated the offense from a disorderly persons offense to a third degree crime. Currently, 48 states have legislation addressing the issue of strangulation and choking during a domestic violence incident.

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