Strangulation of Women Kathryn Laughon, PhD, RN, FAAN
Strangulation of Women Kathryn Laughon, PhD, RN, FAAN Associate Professor University of Virginia School of Nursing Strangulation Statute 18.2-51.6- Strangulation of another; penalty Any person who, without consent, impedes the
blood circulation or respiration of another person by knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully applying pressure to the neck of such person, resulting in the wounding or bodily injury of such person is guilty of strangulation, a Class 6 felony. Clinical Definition:
A form of asphyxia characterized by closure of the blood vessels or air passages of the neck as a result of external pressure on the neck Statute says impede the blood circulation or
respiration of another person so parallel Often improperly described as choking, which is an internal blockage of the airway. 38 states + federal government now have specific strangulation statutes. Why the attention on Strangulation?
Can be fatal: Immediate causes of death: asphyxia, stroke or cardiac arrest Delayed causes: including carotid dissection, laryngeal edema, pulmonary edema, aspiration pneumonia Funk & Schuppel, 2003; McClane et al., 2001
strong predictor for subsequent lethal violence Survivors of nonlethal strangulation are 7x as likely to become a homicide victim (usually not through strangulation) (Glass et al, 2008). Examples: Charlottesville saw two IP femicides in 2010 both had strangulation history from the assailant.
Assailants who strangle may be more dangerous in other ways: Unpublished data from Riverside CA of intentional shootings of police found 50% of assailants had a history of committing strangulation Incidence
47-69% of women evaluated for IPV report being strangled (Bullock et al, 2010) Strangulation is the 3rd most common cause of dv homicide in the U.S. 80-90% of strangulation of women within IPV.
The remaining cases almost always associated with sexual violence (Shields, et al, 2010) Implication: Most women who are strangled by an intimate partner report multiple strangulation victimizations Local Incidence VA Data: 2011 VSDVAA Statewide Data Collection system:
42% of IPV victims presenting to shelters/agencies disclosed that a perpetrator blocked or obstructed their breathing. In 2009, family and IPV accounted for 1/3rd of all Virginia homicide victims. (n=410) Here in Charlottesville: In 2011, 36% of our Domestic Assault cases involved strangulation (Charlottesville)
Pathophysiology of Strangulation laryngotracheal injuries, digestive tract injuries, vascular injuries, orthopedic injury and neurological insult Panic and pain, followed by unconsciousness with occlusion of blood vessels Neck muscles protect arteries, then with LOC, muscles relax and same force will occlude arteries Then possible to collapse airway
Death can occur through reflex cardiac arrest (rare) and through asphyxia (4-5 minutes) or stroke (Green, 2013; Taliaferro et al., 2009; Wilbur et al., 2014) Minimum Pressures
4 lbs Jugular Occlusion 11 lbs Carotid Occlusion 33 lbs Crush Trachea Lethality depends on surface area, amount of
pressure, location of pressure, and amount of time. (Green, 2013; Taliaferro et al., 2009, Wilbur et al., 2014)
Significant Sequelae for Victims Affects multiple systems: musculoskeletal, respiratory, GI, cardiovascular, neurological & psychological Musculoskeletal Injuries to muscles and bones in the face and neck
Fractures Bruising Swelling Hemorrhages Cardiovascular Carotid arteries, jugular veins, other vessels Carotid dissection (immediate or late effects) as
pushed against cervical vertebrae (5 lbs of pressure needed) Occlusion of carotids will cause anoxia and brain death (11 lbs of pressure) LOC can occur within 10 seconds Victim may not regain consciousness immediately occlusion of jugulars (4 pounds) w/o occlusion
of carotids buildup of venous pressure, bursts small vessels (petechiae) petechiae in brain and in face/head/eyes above area of occlusion Respiratory System Larynx & trachea Injuries
Neurological system Brain, vagal and peripheral nerves Dysphagia and dysphonia (can be permanent) Tinnitus Nausea and vomiting Petechiae in brain
Visual changes: narrowing of visual field, fixation of eyes, blurring vision, LOC, convulsions, loss of bowel and bladder control his eyes were black Repeated instances of strangulation may lead to permanent brain injury (Green, 2013; Taliaferro et al., 2009)
Psychological Significant association with PTSD, even compared to other forms of IPV Agitation or flat affect can occur immediately after the attack (may be combination of anoxia & psychological trauma)
(Strack, 2000; Wilbur, 2008) Documentation of injuries Careful documentation of symptoms and injuries is key In NY after strangulation law was passed, almost 1500 2nd degree strangulations were charged 20 went to trial In Maricopa County AZ, 50 cases of strangulation/7 charged
in year after new law passed New program piloted (police training + forensic exam): 41 cases in 3 months, 31 forensic exams, 26 charged, all successful. Injuries Defensive injuries on victim Offender may be injured as the victim tries to defend self
Scratch marks on face, hands and/or arms with frontal strangulation Bite marks on hands when mouth is covered or attempted to cover during chokehold Bite marks/scratches to chest/arms when victim tries to escape being held down/straddled (Taliaferro, et al, 2009) Symptoms associated with strangulation:
May include Dizziness, fainting, sore throat, cough, changes in voice, loss of voice, difficulty in or painful swallowing, difficulty breathing, hyperventilation, loss of bowel/bladder control, swelling, neck pain/swelling. Also note report of symptoms at time of the incident changes in vision, blacking out, feelings of panic, etc (Green, 2013; Taliaferro et al., 2009; Wilbur et al., 2014)
Referral to health care Working on developing and implementing training for ED at UVA Patient has to pay for ED visit at this time High likelihood of PTSD high priority patients for mental health referrals With report of multiple strangulation
incidents, consider referral to neurologist for TBI assessment Health Issues Underlying brain damage may cause victim to have serious internal injuries or die days, even weeks later. Research has shown strangulation causes permanent brain damage. persons who have been strangled can
present agitation associated with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), which may be misinterpreted by the responding law enforcement as hostile or uncooperative (Strack, 2000; Strack & McClane, 1999) Final Thoughts Strangulation is a common form of IPV It is difficult to know which victims will show
obvious visible injuries, survive, or die as a result of strangulation Most cases produce minor to no external, visible injury, but many survivors will have internal injuries and documentable symptoms
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