Strangulation: unseen, under-reported, under-acknowledged

It is hard to see strangulation, and it is a topic that is underreported and under-acknowledged. In fact, only half of victims have visible injuries, according to the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention (TISP).

“Oftentimes, even in fatal cases, there are no external signs of injury.” 

Many factors influence why this topic isn’t talked about or understood as widely as it should be, according to Enola Dick, advocate in the Family Violence Services for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR).

“Strangulation is a brain injury because of the lack of oxygen to the brain,” she said. “It is attempted homicide.”

“Loss of consciousness can occur within 5-10 seconds. Death within minutes,” according to TISP.

Many people don’t think of it that way, however.

“Strangulation includes a hand over someone’s mouth to keep them quiet, chocking, putting pressure on their chest or torso, and more,” Enola said.

Enola expressed that the victims that she works with don’t even understand the severity of what they’ve been through.

“I will hear them say, ‘he chocked me out,” she said. “I’ll ask them, ‘you passed out? He choked you until you passed out. They will say yes like it is not big deal.”

To Enola and those who know the severity of strangulation, it is a big deal, so she’s spreading awareness on strangulation and other factors of sexual assault and domestic violence during the month of April.

“1 in 4 women will experience intimate partner violence in the lifetime. Of women at high risk, up to 68% will experience near-fatal strangulation by their partner,” according to TISP.

In fact, they say that 70% of strangled women believed they were going to die.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) was first observed nationally in 2001 and takes place every April. A Sexual Assault Awareness Walk will take place on the Umatilla Indian Reservation on April 16. For more information on local events taking place throughout the month, see Page 7B.