By: Sasha Foo

VIDEO

SAN DIEGO, CA (KUSI News) — It’s one of the most dangerous and frightening forms of domestic abuse and in San Diego, there’s an advocacy group that’s raising awareness about the effects of strangulation.

Kathy Scharbarth was 34 years old. In the fall of 2011, the Carlsbad woman was murdered by an ex-boyfriend who stole into her home and strangled her.

While not all women who are choked will die, women who are strangled suffer much greater odds of eventually being murdered.

How high is the risk?

Casey Gwinn, with a San Diego group called, “The Training Institute on Strangulation,” points to studies that show a link between strangulation and murder.

A woman who is killed was probably choked on previous occasions by her abuser.

The institute is sharing this information and other research with prosecutors, victims’ advocates, medical professionals and police officers.

Because a woman who is choked may not show any visible signs, the criminal justice system did not always consider the crime a serious one.

Gwinn said the most dangerous effects of strangulation are not seen on the outside. A woman who is choked will often suffer permanent brain damage.

When a woman is choked, the abuser blocks off the blood flow, which can lead to unconsciousness and even death.

Red spots, which are visible in a victim’s eye reflect similar damage being inflicted on the brain.

By helping police officers and medial professionals look for signs of strangulation, prosecutors can do a better job of bringing these cases to court and maybe by stopping one abuser, a woman’s life will be saved.

Casey Gwinn was the city attorney in San Diego before he decided to found the Family Justice Center, a one-stop resource center for survivors of domestic violence.

It’s since been replicated in dozens of other cities.

He said when he was a city attorney 20 years ago, choking was prosecuted as a misdemeanor and that was not unusual.

Today, strangulation is considered a felony crime in California and in 39 other states.

Original article: Special Report: Preventing the most dangerous form of domestic violence