During the course of an assault, non-fatal strangulation occurs when the perpetrator forcibly denies the victim their right to breathe but does not kill them. Medical professionals in most jurisdictions are required to report cases of attempted or non-fatal strangulation to the police.
However, without being properly informed, health care providers often have difficulty identifying victims. 50% of strangulation victims show no visible signs of being strangled. Even if the victim survived the initial assault, they often face a host of post-attack medical issues. Also, without a proper diagnosis from a physician or sexual assault nurse examiner, or SANE, the perpetrator may elude justice.
COMPLICATIONS LURK DOWN THE ROAD
When someone is non-fatally strangled, damage from the attack may take months to appear, and in some cases be fatal. Denial of oxygen can result in lasting brain damage. The forcible constriction of the throat causes damage to the esophagus and airways. And in pregnant patients, the fetus may suffer lasting harm from the suffocation.
SIGNS OF POTENTIAL DAMAGE
GETTING JUSTICE REQUIRES EXPERT TESTIMONY
In order to prosecute the perpetrator, evidence of the attack must be documented. The victim bears the responsibility of reporting the attempted strangulation if the attending physician, nurse, or SANE does not ask.
The healthcare provider will have charts and paperwork for documenting the case. They will begin by documenting the extent of the evident injuries. Providers may also perform diagnostic exams, such as breathing tests.
The victim should also expect to be asked a series of difficult and uncomfortable questions. These questions help health care providers and police determine specific details about the attack and the intentions of the attacker. The victim should answer each question truthfully and to the best of their recollection.
EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLE QUESTIONS
If you know someone who has been the victim of non-fatal strangulation, encourage them to come forward. Tell them to see a doctor as soon as possible and definitely contact the police. Their life may very well depend on it.
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