Important Legislation on Strangulation

Posted on 16. Feb, 2015 by in Articles, Legislative Updates, News

Malinda Williams, Executive Director of Community Against Violence in Taos, explains the importance of adding definitions of strangulation and suffocation to existing NM statutes this legislative session.

From The Taos News:

New Mexico is one of only six remaining states that do not have specific laws against strangulation.

For the fourth consecutive year, women and men advocating for survivors of domestic and sexual violence are working diligently during our legislative session to make this the year that New Mexico will finally make non-fatal strangulation and suffocation a felony. The New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs hope to specifically outlaw strangulation and suffocation as part of three existing statutes: aggravated battery against a household member, child abuse and neglect, and the Family Violence Protection Act.

Strangulation is one of the most dangerous — and common — forms of interpersonal violence.

Research backs up what we know locally: strangulation is commonly used by abusers. Many who seek help at Community Against Violence or call our hotline report that their abuser strangled them.

At least 23 percent of female domestic violence victims experience strangulation by their abusive male partner. A 2001 study found that 10 percent of violent deaths in the United States were attributable to strangulation and six of 10 strangulation victims were women. Victims of domestic violence who are strangled by their abuser are seven times more likely to be later killed by their abuser. This is a very, very serious red flag.

Strangulation is an extremely effective control tactic used in domestic and sexual violence: victims feel terrified during the incident — because they believe they are going to die. And that fear stays with them. Strangulation sends the message that the abuser holds the power to take the victim’s life, with little effort, and in a way that may leave little evidence.

According to the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, unconsciousness occurs within seconds and death can occur within minutes. Slight pressure applied to both carotid arteries in the neck will deprive the brain of oxygen, causing unconsciousness in 10 seconds. Victims may lose consciousness quickly when an abuser makes breathing impossible by closing off the victim’s airway by putting a hand over the nose and mouth. Death will occur after four to five minutes of sustained strangulation. Strangulation victims usually do not have any visible injuries and do not seek medical attention.

Because New Mexico does not have specific laws to penalize strangulation, a prosecutor can generally charge abusers who use that tactic only with a misdemeanor (such as battery or assault against a household member). On rare occasions, an abuser who strangled their victim may be charged with attempted murder, but that charge is difficult to prove.

Adding strangulation to these laws will not only make sure that abusers who strangle are held accountable by tougher punishments but will also help promote awareness of the dangers posed by it. Contact your legislators and encourage them to vote to make New Mexico safer – nmlegis.gov

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