Strangulation is widely regarded by advocates and law enforcement as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence, and it is on the rise in Michigan, according to Michigan State Police data. Strangulation is a “very easy quick method for displaying that power and control on a victim,” said Kimberly Hurst of the Avalon Healing Center in Wayne County. “It only takes 10 seconds in order to completely occlude the oxygen to the brain and also the blood’s ability to get to where it needs to go and the ability for people to take a breath,” Hurst said. “Less than 30 seconds, somebody can be dead.” The state police have seadily recorded an increase in asphyxiation used as a weapon in its annual crime data on domestic violence incident reports, according to News From The States. The agency defines asphyxiation to include, “drowning, strangulation, suffocation, gas, etc.” Asphyxiation was listed as a weapon used in 47 domestic violence incidents reported in 2012, and by 2022, the number jumped to 326 victims, nearly a 600% increase.
Many organizations, including the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention agree with research published in the National Library of Medicine that says women who have been strangled by their partner are seven times more likely to be killed by that partner than are other women in abusive relationships who have not been strangled. One goal of the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, which advises policies pertaining to domestic and sexual violence, is to see an expansion of Michigan’s “assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder” criminal charge, specifically a new definition for “strangulation or suffocation.” Domestic and sexual violence are traumatic and reporting isn’t always easy for people, Hurst said. A person who survives strangulation may not be aware of what happened because it can affect their memory or they don’t know what “counts” as strangulation. “It is kind of on us to explain what happened to you was strangulation; it is life-threatening. It could have caused severe damage and you could have been seconds away from death,” Hurst said. “This was a potentially life-threatening injury. This could cause injuries to your vessels in your neck. This could cause a stroke. This could cause death."