By: Katie Moore

TOPEKA, KS – More than 130 people learned how to recognize signs of strangulation and advocate for victims during a training event Tuesday prompted by stricter state domestic violence laws.

A measure that makes strangulation in a dating relationship a felony went into effect in July 2017. The law defines strangulation as knowingly impeding normal breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to the throat, neck or chest.

Strangulation is a serious crime because it is so lethal, said Lucca Wang, spokeswoman for the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. A study found strangulation was present in 43 percent of homicides of women.

In June 2017, Viviana Vazquez-Alcantar, 33, was found dead as a result of strangulation in the 100 block of S.W. Marshall. Her estranged husband was given a life sentence plus nearly 20 years.

A survivor of strangulation is more than seven times more likely to become a homicide victim, underscoring the need to prosecute perpetrators, Wang said. Death from strangulation can occur in 1 to 2½ minutes.

“Strangulation is about power and control,” said Joyce Grover, executive director of KCSDV. “The abuser is telling the victim, ‘I can kill you.’ ”

The training featured Gael Strack, former San Diego prosecutor and CEO of HOPE International, and Bill Smock, director of the Clinical Forensic Medicine Program for the Louisville Metro Police Department. Strack and Smock have laid the foundation for research on strangulation, including how to investigate and prosecute the offense, Wang said.

Strack and Smock spoke about identifying the signs of strangulation, collecting evidence and other legal considerations. If first responders aren’t properly trained, they may miss less obvious signs of strangulation, and other symptoms may show up days after the incident. Strack said there are short- and long-term consequences of strangulation, including traumatic brain injury. She also spoke about the importance of victim advocacy and education.

Participants in the training event included professionals in prosecution offices, law enforcement, victim advocacy and medical personnel.

This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Sexual and domestic violence is a widespread, preventable public health problem,” Wang said.

The 24-hour Kansas Crisis Hotline can be reached at 888-363-2287.

Article Source: Kansas Organization Hosts Training Centered on New Strangulation Law