By Ken Serrano, Asbury Park Press

A domestic violence victim who has been strangled in an incident is more than seven times more likely of being killed in a future episode of domestic violence, authorities said.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office unveiled a pilot program Monday to train medics and police officers to detect the signs of strangulation when arriving at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

Those signs can be subtle. Only half of victims have visible injuries, even in fatal cases, and only 15 percent of those whose injuries can be seen can be photographed for evidence.

And if a victim lost consciousness during the attack, she might not remember any of it.

The statistics on attacks are staggering. One in four women will face intimate partner violence in their lifetime and 10 percent of those victims will be strangled. And many of the survivors of strangulation will wind up getting murdered.

“It’s a humongous risk factor for future homicides,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.

A local domestic violence advocacy group, 180 Turning Lives Around, receives eight to 10 reports of strangulation each month, he said.

But only two or three get reported to authorities, Gramiccioni said.

In June, at least one officer from every police department in the county was trained in the program. They will in turn train others in their departments, Gramiccioni said.

Sets of questions posed to the victims are a key part of the training.

“Without these questions, many victims might not think to report it,” Gramiccioni said.

Authorities around the country are realizing the danger strangulation poses. Some 47 states now consider strangulation a felony.

In 2017, the Legislature raised the penalties in the state for strangulation from a disorderly persons offense to a third-degree crime that can bring up to five years in prison.

Strangulation can do damage beyond rising the risk of homicide for a victim, said Eileen Allen, the coordinator of the training program and a forensic nurse for the Prosecutor’s Office.
Traumatic brain injury is one of the long-term effects, she said. PTSD and other psychological problems are others.

One thing the team of trainers is looking to dispel is the notion that a lack of visible evidence means there is no case.

“The victim often times, not understanding the way the criminal justice system might very well work, think to themselves that there’s no proof that I’ve been injured here so what am I going to do? That’s why there might be an undereporting,” Gramiccioni said.

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