By Bay City News

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved an allocation of $750,000 on Tuesday to expand the county’s strangulation response program.

The money would be used to provide victims with forensic medical exams, advocacy and other forms of care like an advocate who would accompany them to the exam.

A county pilot program, started in January 2020 and later expanded in March 2021, found that conducting a forensic medical exam in domestic abuse cases helps increase the chance of charges being filed and determined as felonies.

In cases where medical forensic exams were conducted, the criminal case supported the filing of more serious felony charges over misdemeanor charges 86.6 percent of the time. For cases without medical exams, the rate was 28.8 percent, according to a recent report by the county’s Office of Gender-Based Violence Prevention.

Forensic exams in cases of intimate partner violence also provides an opportunity for follow-up medical care for victims and prevent homicides, Supervisor Cindy Chavez said.

“Intimate partners who are victims of non-fatal strangulation are seven times more likely to die by homicide than those who have not been strangled,” said Chavez. “The research has been clear for a decade now that choking strongly predicts future homicide.”

This recent allocation is one of several county efforts to combat domestic abuse. In the last few weeks, the county approved adding one attorney and one investigator position in the District Attorney’s Office that would focus on seizing firearms from perpetrators of domestic abuse — ensuring court-ordered gun prohibitions are enforced in criminal domestic abuse cases and family court domestic violence restraining orders.

The county also expanded the Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement task force — which helps guide survivors through medical treatment, evidence collection and testify, if appropriate — by adding four nurses and two staff positions.

The Children’s Advocacy Center, which was unveiled in April, was also allocated the funds needed to have a full staff available — including medical personnel and prosecutors — during all hours.

“We must continue to commit the resources necessary to both support the victims of intimate partner violence and bring their abusers to justice,” Chavez said.

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