San Diego County's Strangulation Protocol: Improving Evidence Collection to Win the War.

Author:Prior, Tracy
Position:Special Section on Domestic Violence

ANA'S STORY--"My former boyfriend was constantly jealous, controlling, and isolated me from the world. He would beat me, threaten me with weapons, destroy my property, and abuse my children. He would often strangle me to the point that I would lose consciousness. In a final set of incidents, he ended up strangling me with a television cord and he lifted me by my hair, breaking my neck, and causing me to be quadriplegic. I now require around-the-clock care. I wish someone had realized sooner that I needed help. I feel fortunate to be alive today."


Every minute after a domestic violence incident matters and the skills and resources of local law enforcement and healthcare providers can help us win the battle in holding offenders accountable in the courtroom. Strangulation is a serious warning sign in domestic violence relationships that should never be ignored.

With over 17,000 domestic violence incidents in San Diego County and an increase of 63 percent in defendants charged for domestic violence over the past two years, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office has been working hard to put into place new strategies for prosecuting smarter. A few years back, we began delving into our crime data to see where we could make a difference. What leaped out was that few strangulation cases were being filed on and even less were being filed as felonies. We also started educating ourselves about the complexities of strangulation cases and thinking differently about how we filed, negotiated, argued, and proved these cases.

Strangulation is an important indicator for future lethal domestic violence. During strangulation, external pressure put on the neck can result in a lack of oxygen to the brain. Loss of consciousness may result, and if continued, ultimately death. Female survivors of non-fatal strangulation are 600 percent more likely to become a victim of attempted homicide and more than 700 percent more likely to become a victim of homicide. (1) Fifteen percent of the DV homicides in our county are the result of strangulation or suffocation and strangulation accounts for about 10 percent of all violent deaths in the U.S. (2)

Improved detection and documentation of strangulation is critical for holding domestic violence offenders accountable for these serious criminal acts. Through collaborative efforts across the twelve law enforcement agencies in our county and prosecution, we have been able to move the...

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