Story by: MATTHEW N. WELLS
DeKALB – Being underwater for about 35 seconds and almost drowning is a lot like what people go through when they are choked.
At least, that’s what Alliance for Hope International co-founder and president Casey Gwinn said at a presentation Tuesday inside the Duke Ellington Ballroom at Northern Illinois University’s Holmes Student Center.
He said it was the scariest thing he’s ever experienced, even when it occurred years ago.
Gwinn hopes his presentation will help with identifying, investigating and prosecuting domestic violence cases, as well as advocating for victims. Some of the signs to look for in choking or strangulation victims are red spots on the eyes, blood-red eyes, swollen lip, neck bruises, scratches and cord or rope burns. Victims also can lose consciousness and suffer memory loss and brain damage from choking. However, choking often can leave no markings.
The vast majority of victims who are choked by their abusers also were abused before, he said.
“Women are never strangled for the first time in a relationship,” he said. “There’s other violence that’s gone on.”
Readers are advised that the Associated Press refers to strangling as “to choke to death by compressing the throat with something,” and also refers to choking as “to check or block normal breathing of by compressing or obstructing the trachea.” The Daily Chronicle follows the style that attributes strangulation to individuals who have died as a result of choking.
Gwinn’s two-day training session is hosted by the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office, DeKalb County Mental Health Board, the NIU Police and the Family Violence Coordinating Council of the 16th Judicial District and 23rd Judicial District that serve Kane and DeKalb counties, respectively.
Gwinn said that, on average, a woman could be assaulted as many as 32 times by an abuser before she called the police for the first time. He said many altercations happen in relationships that law enforcement never gets involved in – but it doesn’t mean those altercations aren’t crimes, be it pushing, shoving, slapping or punching.
Sheila Grimmett, a social worker intern who is studying at Governors State University, said she learned a lot from Gwinn’s talk about abuse in which someone chokes another person.
“The majority say they were being choked instead of strangled, so it seems less severe,” Grimmett said. “It’s so valuable to know the signs to look for. It’s the first line of defense.”
Another problem arises if an abuse victim happens to be a household’s breadwinner. In some cases in which police report both the abuser and the victim have bruises, an officer says that one needs to go to jail – and the victim often volunteers.