The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee heard testimony Monday on House Bill 2017 that would classify strangulation as an aggravated battery. Strangulation is defined as “knowingly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck of another person or by blocking the nose or mouth of another person, when done in a rude insulting or angry manner.”

Committee Chair John Rubin (R-Shawnee) is making the bill a priority and expects it to pass this year.

“I think (the House) understands the importance of this bill,” Rubin said. “We got the full weight and support of the Attorney General Office and all of Kansas’ prosecutors behind the bill.”

Assistant Attorney General Melissa Johnson testified in support of HB 2017 at Monday’s hearing. She said currently prosecution requires expert testimony, which is costly for municipal courts. The revisions would allow for other evidence to be summited that indicates signs of strangulation that can be determined by law enforcement officials.

“Ten percent of violent deaths in the U.S. are to strangulation, a majority of victims being women,” Johnson said. “This (bill) is a crime prevention tool.”

Thirty-eight states have established the crime of strangulation as an independent felony.

During her testimony, Shawnee Mission Medical Center registered nurse Jennifer Bieberdorf told several stories of women who were strangled by boyfriends or spouses. Rarely has a charge of strangulation been filed in those incidents.

“We don’t want (Kansas) to be the last state to join this effort,” Bieberdorf said.

Megan Ahsens, Johnson County Assistant District Attorney, also testified in favor of the bill.

“For the Government, passing this law will send a big message to victims that they do care for them,” she said.

No one at the hearing opposed the bill. Rubin said it’s his plan to work this bill later this week, and it will be the first one moved out of the committee and to the full House.

“I’m here to tell you that women are being strangled in our communities,” nurse Jennifer Johnson said.