More States Raise Choking Penalties To Head Off Domestic Assaults


More states are trying to reduce fatal domestic assaults by raising penalties against abusers who choke their victims, says USA Today. New Hampshire and Delaware last month passed laws making it a felony to choke someone. A similar law that passed both houses of the New York Legislature this month awaits the signature of Gov. David Paterson.

States are targeting choking incidents because when an abuser tries to strangle someone in a domestic assault, it is a leading indicator that he will escalate his attacks and eventually kill his victim, says Gael Strack, a former prosecutor and founder of the Family Justice Center Alliance, which helps abuse victims. Strack says states also need to train officers and prosecutors to look for evidence of strangulation, which can be hard to prove without bruises on the victim. A 2008 study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine found 43 percent of women who were murdered in domestic assaults and 45 percent who were victims of attempted murder had been choked in the past year by their male partners.

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