It’s not a topic most want to talk about, and yet, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
Keene Police Chief Emmitt Jackson said it’s something his department has put a lot of focus on lately, in particular strangulation.
“It is important to remember, if your partner is willing to strangle you, you are also 10 times more likely to be killed by that intimate partner,” he said. “By calling us and allowing us to intervene, while difficult, might literally save your life.”
In 2018, 49.6 percent of Part 1 (serious) crimes in Keene were assaults. Of those, 85 percent were related to family violence. Twenty-four percent of all arrests were for family violence.
In April, Jackson and several officers attended the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention in Bedford, where they learned what questions will help better identify if strangulation occurred during an argument or altercation.
Jackson said officers, using a supplemental form, will ask the victim to articulate what they were seeing, feeling and hearing during the incident.
“The things that will be asked are, ‘Did your intimate partner impede your breath or circulation?’ If so, describe how that was done,” he said. “Was it with one hand, with two hands? Did they use an object of some sort? Describe the way it made you feel.
“One of the things that was said on one of our recent strangulation cases was that ‘it felt like someone had their foot on my throat.’
“A lot will describe they saw stars or everything went black. In one of the incidents someone said, ‘I don’t even recall what happened’ because there was short-term memory loss.”
Jackson said only half of strangulation victims will have visible injuries, and only 15 percent can be photographed.
“More importantly, the lethality of strangulation likely comes days, even weeks, later,” he said. “We’re more concerned with long-lasting, potentially fatal injuries that you’re not going to see at first glance.”
Some signs of strangulation can include petechiae (red spots) in eyes, face or scalp; bruising or redness on mouth, neck or behind ears; swollen neck, tongue or lips; or scratch marks.
Some symptoms can include raspy voice, coughing, loss of memory, extremity weakness, difficulty speaking, fainting, vomiting, headaches, chest pain, ringing in ears and respiratory distress.
“We’ve reached out to our EMS partners to better understand that,” Jackson said. “They are able to see things that your average officer doesn’t pick up on.”
Jackson said just 10-15 seconds of strangulation is enough to cause short- and long-term damage.
“One of the things we learned in that class is the amount of pressure it takes to squeeze a beer can — 3-5 pounds of pressure on your carotid arteries — can cause you to lose consciousness,” he said. “It doesn’t take much, and it’s not going to leave marks.”
KPD Detective Tracey Glenn said since they returned from training, the department has identified three strangulation victims.
“Since we have attended training we have investigated a total of three cases in which strangulation has been in questions,” she said. “Without this training, I’m sure — not just within our agency, but in others — this would’ve gone unnoticed and may have been filed as a misdemeanor, where strangulation is a felony.”
Jackson reminds all officers, that the statute says “impede” breathing, it doesn’t say stop.
“That’s one of the things a lot of police officers will say, and I know I’ve said it,” he said. “You have a suspect who says they can’t breathe, and you say well if you can talk you can breathe. Well, not necessarily.
“Because I can impede your breathe and you can vocalize, but I can still cause damage.”
If you are someone you know if a victim of family violence, you can call the Johnson County Family Crisis Center for help at 817-558- 7171.