Domestic Strangulation Cases In OKC, Highlight Hidden Problem
OKLAHOMA CITY - Two separate, violent domestic abuse cases reported in Oklahoma City this week are highlighting an often-unseen, yet prevalent crime across our state. Strangulation can easily lead to death, but some are working to change the statistics.
Palomar, Oklahoma City’s Family Justice Center, reports that 70% of the domestic violence victims it serves have been strangled by their intimate partner. The organization’s leaders say simply reporting these crimes when they happen is a step in the right direction.
Since opening last year, Palomar has spent time educating victims, officers, prosecutors, doctors and nurses on the dangers of strangulation.
CEO Kim Garrett says the crime would often go unreported in the past because the wounds are often invisible.
“Sometimes when officers arrive on scene, it’ll be the offender who actually has the injury,” she said,” because if you’re fighting for your life, what are you going to do? You’ll do anything.”
Garrett said the internal injuries suffered can lead to blood clots, voice loss and even deadly strokes, though. Plus, a domestic strangling victim is 750-times more likely to be murdered by their partner later.
“David Prater, the DA, says it’s actually an appetizer for homicide,” said Garrett.
Experts say it only takes four pounds of pressure in the right place to kill someone. Opening an aluminum can with one finger uses around 20 pounds of pressure.
In one of this week's cases, the victim was lying down with her twin 2-year-olds when their father attacked her. Despite being punched repeatedly and choked until she saw stars, she did not want to press charges.
In the other case, the victim's 8-year-old was in the home as her partner beat her until she lost consciousness. When she woke up, he was still punching her in the face.
Garrett said these incidents have a major long-term impact on the children as well.
“You’ll see issues with substance abuse, mental health issues, suicidal ideation or completion,” she said. “There’s direct correlations to trauma exposure.”
In both cases, the victims reported their partner was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but Garrett says that’s no excuse.
"It's really complex, but it's not unusual for people to think that it was caused by alcohol or drugs, or things like that. And that does not cause violence," said Garrett.
Garrett believes our community is slowly changing for the better, though, with more victims reporting the crimes and prosecutors pushing for stricter punishment for suspects.
If you need help escaping an abusive relationship, connect to resources by clicking here.
You can also call the 24-hour Safeline at 1-800-522-SAFE (7233).