Oklahoma remains among the worst in the nation for the rate of women killed by men, but some new training for first responders and prosecutors may help save lives.
International experts are hosting a CLEET-certified informational course at the Devon Boathouse Monday, Aug. 14 and Tuesday, Aug. 15 about the relationship between strangulation and homicides. Former San Diego prosecutor Gael Strack started studying the correlation in the 1990s and has found that strangulation victims are 750% more likely to become homicide victims than domestic partners who were never choked.
“People are dying,” says Strack, who is now the CEO of Alliance for HOPE International. “Kids are dying. Women are dying. This is no laughing matter, but the problem is we’re not educated about it.”
Police, nurses and prosecutors from around Oklahoma are changing that, though, by learning to recognize strangulation for the danger that it is. Strack says, “The men who strangle women, and mostly it’s men, they are killers. They are the ones that are killing police officers and usually involved in mass shootings.”
Palomar, Oklahoma City’s family justice center, obtained a private sponsorship to bring in Strack and police surgeon Dr. Bill Smock. Palomar reports 68% of local high-risk victims admitted in a survey that they had been choked by their partner.
One little-known fact revealed at the course is that it only takes 11 pounds of pressure to the arteries in the neck to cause brain damage. A strong person can squeeze with more than 100 pounds of pressure using only one hand. “If somebody puts pressure on your neck,” says Strack, “you are depriving the brain of oxygen, and if you pass out you’ve likely suffered a brain injury that is irreversible.”
A victim being choked can pass out in as little as five seconds, and may die within minutes.
Also, only half of strangulation victims have visible injuries, which is why hands-on exercises at the course help participants look beyond the obvious for clues. Strack notes, “Cases are won or lost depending on the investigation of the patrol officer.”
Oklahoma County district attorney David Prater says this new information will definitely help catch dangerous criminals before they become deadly. “We’re always reactive,” he says, “and we think, how could we have prevented this? What is it we could have done to have seen this coming? Where was our crystal ball? Strangulation is the crystal ball.”
The experts will host a second round of the training course Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Devon Boathouse along the Oklahoma River. The seminar is free and open to the public.
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If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic abuse and need help, call (405) 552-1010 or click here for online resources.