Strangulation 101: The Last Warning Shot
Strangulation has only recently been identified as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence: unconsciousness may occur within seconds and death within minutes. When domestic violence perpetrators choke (strangle) their victims, not only is this a felonious assault, but it may be an attempted homicide. Strangulation is an ultimate form of power and control, where the batterer can demonstrate control over the victim’s next breath, having devastating psychological effects or a potentially fatal outcome.
It can be difficult to document and prosecute strangulation cases despite their lethality because injuries may appear to be minor or non-existent. However, medical research has shown this is far from the case—victims of strangulation can experience lasting medical and psychological consequences. Proper training of police officers, prosecutors, and medical professionals is vital to improving the prosecution of these offenders in felony or attempted murder strangulation cases.
- Increase understanding of the signs and symptoms of strangulation
- Improve understanding of the documentation of evidence and follow up investigations
- Improve understanding of advocacy for victims
- Increased awareness of the seriousness of strangulation assaults
Gael Strack is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Alliance for HOPE International. The Alliance has five main programs: the National Family Justice Center, Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, Camp HOPE America, VOICES and the Justice Legal Network. Gael is an internationally recognized expert in non-fatal strangulation cases and regularly trains on numerous topics. Gael is also an Adjunct Professor at California Western School of Law teaching a class on “Domestic Violence and the Law”.
Casey Gwinn – Casey Gwinn is the President and Co-Founder of the Alliance. He is the visionary behind the Family Justice Center Movement, first proposing the concept of the Family Justice Center model in 1989. Casey founded Camp HOPE America in 2003. He is a national expert on domestic violence dynamics, including investigation and prosecution, the handling of non-fatal strangulation cases, and is one of the leading thinkers in the country on the science of hope. Prior to this position, Casey was the elected San Diego City Attorney.
Bill Smock is the Police Surgeon and directs the Clinical Forensic Medicine Program for the Louisville Metro Police Department. He graduated from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky in 1981 and obtained a Master’s degree in Anatomy from the University of Louisville in 1987. Bill graduated from the University of Louisville, School of Medicine in 1990 and completed a residency in emergency medicine at the University of Louisville in 1993. In 1994, he became the first physician in the United States to complete a post-graduate fellowship in Clinical Forensic Medicine. Dr. Smock was an Assistant Medical Examiner with the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office from 1991 to 1997. Dr. Smock joined the faculty at University of Louisville’s Department of Emergency Medicine in 1994 and was promoted to the rank of full professor in 2005. Dr. Smock is currently a Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Louisville, School of Medicine and regularly takes medical students on mission trips to Africa.
Joe Bianco has a BA is in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and an MS in Criminal Justice from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Before joining the Alliance, Joe was a police officer for 16 years with the New York City Police Department and San Diego Police Department. He was assigned as a detective to the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Unit for a total of 6 years. Joe is recognized as a court expert in non-fatal strangulation cases and domestic violence dynamics. In additional to his experience in law enforcement, he spent a year working for child welfare services for the State of New Hampshire.
Since 2008, Jim Henderson has been a technical assistance provider for the US Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women through the Battered Women’s Justice Project. He also continues to provide batterer intervention within the Detroit metropolitan area since 1995. From 1991-2008 Jim was a probation officer responsible for overseeing the policies and practices of Intensive Probation for Domestic Violence offenders in Ann Arbor MI. He was assigned to the Washtenaw County Domestic Violence Unit as part of the Judicial Oversight Demonstration Initiative from 1999 to 2005 and works from a system perspective to enhance victim’s safety and defendant accountability. Jim trains on the utilization of probation group reporting to gain better compliance, using the community to assist in the monitoring of batterers, thus enhancing the safety of those victimized by the violence. Jim has been a Certified Addition Counselor II since 1987 and an Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor since 1990. He received his Master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan in 1995.
Dr. Baldwin-Johnson is a board-certified family physician, life-long Alaskan, and mother of two wonderful adults. She serves as the medical director for Alaska CARES, the Child Advocacy Center in Anchorage and a department of The Children’s Hospital at Providence. As part of her duties she oversees the SCAN (Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect) Teams at Providence Alaska and Mat-Su Regional Medical Centers, and provides trainings for medical providers and multidisciplinary team members on child abuse topics. She is the co-founder and volunteer medical director of The Children’s Place, a Child Advocacy Center in the Mat-Su Borough. She has served on the Alaska Children’s Justice Act Task Force since its inception and as chair from 2007 – 2011 and is an active member of the Alaska Maternal & Child Death Review Committee, the Medical Advisory Team for the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention and the board of the Alaska Children’s Alliance. She is a 1980 graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine and completed the Swedish Hospital Medical Center Family Practice Residency program in 1983.