The definition of attempted strangulation
In order to provide context for examining the dynamics of power in cases of attempted strangulation, it is first necessary to understand the definition of the crime.
Attempted strangulation is defined as “the intentional application of pressure to the neck of another person by means of forearm or other body part, whether or not the person loses consciousness or believes they are in imminent danger of death” (National District Attorneys Association, 2009, p. 1). This definition captures both completed and incomplete strangulation attempts, as well as cases in which the victim does not lose consciousness.
The dynamics of power in attempted strangulation cases
The dynamics of power in attempted strangulation cases are complex and often involve a number of factors. Strangulation is a violent act that can have serious physical and psychological consequences for the victim. In many cases, the victim is left feeling powerless and vulnerable.
There are several dynamics that can contribute to the feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability in attempted strangulation cases. The first is the physical act of strangulation itself. Strangulation can be extremely physically damaging, and even if the victim survives, they may be left with long-term physical consequences. This can include damage to the neck, throat, and/or airway, as well as neurological damage.
In addition, attempted strangulation can be a very traumatizing experience. Victims may feel fear, helplessness, and anxiety in the aftermath of an attack. This can lead to long-term psychological consequences, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Further, attempted strangulation cases often involve a history of domestic violence. In these cases, the victim may have experienced previous episodes of violence and may already feel powerless and vulnerable. The attack may also be part of a pattern of controlling behavior by the perpetrator. All of these factors can contribute to the feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability that many victims experience in attempted strangulation cases.
The role of the police in attempted strangulation cases
There is growing awareness of the seriousness of attempted strangulation and the need for a coordinated response from law enforcement, prosecutors, and the medical profession.
The findings revealed that in most cases, police did not interview victims immediately after the incident and that there was often a significant delay between when the incident occurred and when the victim was interviewed. In many cases, police appeared to rely heavily on medical reports and statements from other people involved in the incident, rather than speaking directly to the victim. The findings also suggested that police disbelief or skepticism was a common barrier to effective interviewing in these cases.
Improved training and protocols for law enforcement officers who respond to attempted strangulation cases. In particular, there is a need for officers to receive training on how to effectively interview victims and to understand the dynamics of power in these cases. We offer this training in two of our courses: Domestic Violence Criminal Investigations and our upcoming Attempted Strangulation for the First Responder training.
The investigation of attempted strangulation cases
The investigation of attempted strangulation cases is complicated by the fact that there is no visible injury in approximately 50% of these cases.
The victim may have minor injuries, such as:
- petechiae (tiny red or purple spots on the skin that are caused by a minor hemorrhage),
- erythema (redness of the skin), or
- edema (swelling)
There may also be bruises on the neck, although these can be seen in up to 30% of assault victims who were not strangled.
If there is no visible injury, the decision to believe the victim and proceed with a criminal investigation may hinge on other factors, such as the relationship between victim and assailant, prior incidents of violence, and any corroborating evidence.
Do not blow off these cases – believe the victim and conduct a thorough investigation while ensuring they receive medical treatment.
In addition to being difficult to investigate, attempted strangulation is often associated with increased levels of lethality. A large prospective study of domestic violence found that women who were choked by their partners were more likely to be killed by them than women who were not choked.
In a review of 100 homicide cases in which women were killed by their intimate partners, 51% of the victims had been strangled prior to being killed. Victims of attempted strangulation are also at increased risk for mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.
The prosecution of attempted strangulation cases
In many jurisdictions, prosecutors are hesitant to bring charges in attempted strangulation cases, particularly when the victim does not have visible injuries. The reason for this is that these cases are often difficult to prove in court, due to the lack of physical evidence.
There are a number of reasons why attempted strangulation cases are difficult to prosecute. First, strangulation is a stealth crime; it often happens in private, without witnesses. Second, the victim may not be able to remember all the details of the attack, due to oxygen deprivation. And third, even when there is physical evidence, it can be difficult to interpret.
For all these reasons, it is important that both law enforcement and prosecutors receive specialized training in how to investigate and prosecute attempted strangulation cases. With the right training and approach, these cases can be successfully prosecuted, and perpetrators can be held accountable for their violent actions.
The sentencing of attempted strangulation cases
There is a growing body of research on the dynamics of power in interpersonal relationships, including violence. In particular, scholars have paid increasing attention to the role of gender in mediating power differentials. These power differentials are thought to operate in two ways: first, through social norms and expectations regarding appropriate behavior for men and women, and second, through actual physical differences between men and women.
In terms of the former, research has shown that there are cultural scripts or “blueprints” for appropriate masculine and feminine behaviors. These cultural scripts often legitimize violence by men against women within intimate relationships; they may also serve to excuse or minimize such violence when it occurs. In terms of the latter, research has shown that men, on average, are physically stronger than women and that this physical difference can be a factor in intimate partner violence.
In light of this research on gender and power dynamics, it is not surprising that sentencing outcomes in attempted strangulation cases would be impacted by these factors. Indeed, studies have shown that judges tend to sentence defendants more harshly when the victim is female. These harsher sentences may be due in part to the fact that judges perceive female victims as more vulnerable and in need of protection than male victims. Additionally, judges may view attempted strangulation as a particularly heinous crime when perpetrated against a woman given its gendered underpinnings.
Given the significant role that gender plays in shaping power dynamics within relationships, it is important to consider these dynamics when sentencing defendants in attempted strangulation cases. This is especially true given that such crimes are often motivated by a desire to exercise power and control over the victim. While it may not be possible to fully account for all of the complexities of gender and power when sentencing defendants, taking such factors into consideration can help to ensure that sentences are just and proportionate to the severity of the crime.
The impact of attempted strangulation on the victim
Intimate partner attempted strangulation is a significant problem in the United States and we see it increasing locally in Idaho. The National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) estimates that more than 600,000 women are victims of nonfatal attempted strangulation by an intimate partner each year in the United States.
Attempted strangulation is a violent act with serious consequences for the victim. In addition to the obvious physical injuries that can result, attempted strangulation can also have long-term mental and emotional effects on the victim. These effects can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and problems with trust, self-esteem, and relationships.
In many jurisdictions, there is a growing awareness of the serious nature of choking or strangling another person. The majority of victims are female, and the vast majority of perpetrators are male. Although most cases do not result in death, attempted strangulation is now recognized as a major risk factor for future lethal violence.
There are two primary factors that contribute to the lethality of strangulation: asphyxia and blunt force trauma. Asphyxia occurs when the flow of oxygen to the brain is cut off and can cause brain damage or death within minutes. Blunt force trauma occurs when the pressure on the neck is great enough to break bones or crush windpipes.
The deep emotional impact of being choked can also have long-lasting effects. Many survivors report feeling afraid and helpless during the attack, and these feelings can persist long after the physical injuries have healed. flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and depression are all common among survivors of attempted strangulation
Victims of attempted strangulation are also at an increased risk of being killed by their abuser. A study of women who had been physically abused by their intimate partners found that those who had been strangled were 7 times more likely to be killed by their abuser than those who had not been strangled.
It is important for victims of attempted strangulation to seek help from a qualified domestic violence advocate or counselor. These professionals can provide support and resources to help begin the healing process from the physical and emotional effects of this violence.
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