By Yasmin Mayne
SPRUCE GROVE – ALBERTA- CANADA- The local Victim Services unit received a $2,600 grant from Justice Canada to help train first responders to identify the signs and understand the dangers of strangulation.
Victims and Survivors of Crime week, May 29 to June 4, and the Stony Plain, Spruce Grove and District Victim Services has chosen to use this week to focus on the under diagnosed and lethal weapon that is strangulation.
“We see strangulation often in our cases, and unfortunately victims take it lightly and call it choking,” said Colleen Kimak, recruiting and marketing contractor for Victim Services.
“They don’t realize how easy it is for strangulation to become lethal.”
There will be a Strangulation Identification and Assessment training on June 2, conducted by registered nurse, Morag McLean, to help first responders and those who come into contact with victims of violence, gain an in-depth knowledge about strangulation.
According to McLean, there is a very distinct difference between choking and strangulation.
Choking is when the trachea or windpipe becomes blocked and oxygen cannot reach the brain.
“This is a breathing emergency and tends to be accidental,” McLean said.
Strangulation, on the other hand, is when external pressure is applied to the neck or throat, and the vessels, which provide blood to the brain, are blocked.
“The external pressure can be from one or two hands or a ligature like a bra, seatbelt or cord,” she said.
According to McLean, many victims of strangulation downplay the incident and often think that if they survived the initial assault they will be “okay”.
However, McLean knows different.
“Just because someone has survived strangulation doesn’t mean they’re not going to die,” she said.
“There’s heightened risk of experiencing death after strangulation for at least 48 hours.”
Strangulation can also lead to many cardio-vascular issues in the future, including stroke.
According to both McLean and Kimak, strangulation is a weapon, and is often used by abusers because of its convenience and ease.
McLean explained that it only requires 11 pounds of pressure to occlude the carotid artery and 4.4 pounds to occlude the jugular vein, vessels that take blood to and from the brain respectively.
“A healthy male’s handshake is about 80 to 100 pounds of pressure per square inch,” McLean said.
“With very little effort, someone can subdue (another), induce fear and quite easily kill (them).”
One of the reasons Mclean believes this training is important, is because first responder training doesn’t give strangulation enough attention, so many of the people on the front lines don’t realize that it has occurred.
“In most cases there are no visible signs … in only about 15 per cent of victims can you actually see the bruising and red marks,” she said.
What first responders and members of the public should know is that symptoms of strangulation include loosing one’s voice or hoarseness when speaking.
As well, difficulty breathing and swallowing can be indicative of strangulation.
“We need to train professionals to know how to ask about strangulation … and explore what went on in the relationship,” McLean said.
“Once we have identified that this person has been strangled, we need to inform them of the risks associated with it. Most victims don’t realize this is a very dangerous event.”
Two training sessions will occur on June 2 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in the Provincial Building Boardroom in Stony Plain.
If any members of the public who come into contact with victims of strangulation in either their professional or volunteer roles, and would like to attend the training, can contact Colleen Kimak at
Twitter: @YasminMayne
To read the original article, click here: Strangulation Too Often Downplayed