By: Erin Conrad
Domestic strangulation isn’t a crime that gets much attention but in just the last two years Tulsa police have investigated at least 14-hundred cases where the victim survived.
Two cases ended in murder.
It’s a crime that rarely leaves visible marks but leaves victims eight-times more likely to die of homicide than women victimized by other forms of abuse.
Tulsa police respond to at least two cases of domestic strangulation every day.
“When we see ’em come into the safety center they’re not coming in because it’s the first time. It may be the third, fourth, fifth… 20th that they’re finally coming in,” says Kathy Bell, TPD forensic nurse.
Bell is with the Tulsa police Family Safety Center.
“If we have say, 100 patients, come in, 50 of them are gonna give a history of strangulation,” says Bell.
She is often one of the first to hear victims’ stories as she examines the extent of their strangulation injuries.
In rare cases injuries are visible but most of the time they’re not.
Strangulation cuts off blood to the brain.
Some victims see spots, others pass out or suffer a stroke.
“With no blood flow in or blood flow out, those cells in the brain are going to be dying. The longer that exists then the more damage is done to the brain,” says Bell.
Perhaps what’s scarier?
“Once you’d been strangled once you are five times more likely to die within the next 12 months!” says Oklahoma Representative Ross Ford of Broken Arrow.
Lt. Clay Asbill with Tulsa police investigates these types of crimes.
“Meaning they didn’t die from strangulation, but they, later on, died whether they were shot, stabbed,” says Lt. Asbill.
Given that statistic, it may be hard to understand why the Oklahoma state statute does not consider it a violent crime.
“I consider it a violent crime but by statute is not a violent crime.” Says Lt. Asbill.
What’s worse? Those convicted don’t do much time according to Rep. Ross Ford.
Ford wants better protections for victims of domestic strangulation.
“If I was mad at you for instance and I strangled you until you blacked out I could be charged and sentenced if convicted and sentenced to anywhere from 10 years to life in prison for strangling you. But if I strangle my wife it’s only a one-to-three year sentence.” Says Ford.
Next month when the legislature is back in session Ford is asking lawmakers to toughen penalties for domestic strangulation.
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