The Dangers of Strangulation
New Protocol Will Help Save Lives
Salt Lake City, UT: Each year, approximately 80 Utah children are present at the murder or attempted murder of their mothers and many of those mothers were strangled (had abuser’s hands wrapped around their throats) before that.
A woman’s risk of being murdered after near fatal strangulation increases by over seven times. However, strangulation is not typically documented in the regular course of medical treatment or police contact because the injury is often not obvious and victims frequently minimize the experience. To help save lives, an interagency, community-wide pilot project is rolling out a coordinated protocol to respond to near-fatal strangulation around Salt Lake.
“The Salt Lake City Police Department recognizes the increased threat of domestic violence relationships in which victims are strangled. Individuals who have been strangled by an intimate partner can suffer from permanent brain injury, memory loss, and are 7 times more likely to be killed by their intimate partner. SLCPD hopes that by implementing the strangulation protocol with our partners we can provide the necessary services to victims to help them realize the seriousness of their situation. It also establishes practices that will provide better evidence for the prosecution of suspects in these cases.” -Chief Mike Brown
Nearly 1,000 Salt Lake City Firefighters, Salt Lake City Police Officers, and 911 Dispatchers have trained their personnel about the risks and signs of strangulation and improving their response to domestic violence calls. They are implementing a protocol that guides first responders to screen for and provide education about the hidden dangers of near-fatal strangulation, and facilitates a referral for a specialized exam with a forensic nurse and medical care.
In addition to being a predictor of escalating violence, strangulation is serious injury in its own right, only recently becoming fully understood. Near-fatal strangulation victims can suffer from internal injuries that can result in a stroke or delayed death. Survivors may also experience persistent symptoms including, headaches, numbness, memory loss, vision changes, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of these symptoms can remain with the victim throughout the rest of their lives.
First responders, law enforcement, medical providers, domestic violence service providers, researchers, and survivors are working together to enhance survivor’s safety and increase offender accountability with this pilot project. Membership and key stakeholders:
- Salt Lake City Police Department
- Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office
- Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office
- Salt Lake City Police Victim Advocates
- Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office
- Salt Lake County Court
- First Responders
- Salt Lake City Fire Department
- Gold Cross Ambulance
- Salt Lake City 911
- University of Utah: Emergency Department
- Forensic Nurse Examiners: Family Justice Center Forensic Nurses
- Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Service Providers
- YWCA Utah
- South Valley Sanctuary Executive
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition
- Primary Research Investigator: University of Utah, Annie Fukushima, PhD
If you seek help from an abusive relationship call the YWCA 24-Hour Crisis Line 801-537-8600 or seek, free, confidential walk-in services at Salt Lake Area Family Justice Center at the YWCA Monday-Friday 9 AM – 4 PM.
If it is an emergency, contact 911.