Teams Trained on Overlooked Forms of Domestic and Dating Violence

Casey Guinn presenting at Strangulation Prevention workshop

Trigger warning: Please be advised that this article contains content related to domestic and dating violence, which may be disturbing for some readers.

On the evening news, It is common to see news reports of homicides with clear linkages to prior reports of domestic and dating violence. Two weeks ago, in fact, a former judge in Ohio was arrested for killing his wife, just four years after serving a nine-month prison sentence for domestic violence.*

It seems that each time a mass shooting occurs in this country — whether it is Orlando, San Bernadino, Fort Lauderdale, Parkland or countless others — it is often just a matter of time before a history of violent domestic abuse also comes to light. A prior history which, if taken seriously, might have predicted or even prevented further violence.

For decades, the public health community and advocates have been trying to sound the alarm about the epidemic of domestic and dating violence, yet these warnings often go unheard until it is too late. Alarmingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that half of all female homicide victims in the United States are killed by their intimate partners.

Potentially Lethal, Yet Hard to Detect

In recent years, strangulation has been identified as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence and sexual assault. Because unconsciousness may occur within seconds and death within minutes, strangulation is a demonstration of ultimate power and control where the abuser can literally determine the victim’s next breath. While the outcome can be deadly, strangulation may result in no visible injuries, and as such, can go unnoticed by professionals.

To better understand, prevent and respond to acts of violence that may include strangulation, NC State’s Office of Violence Prevention and Threat Management, the Women’s Center and the Department of Social Work hosted a workshop, “Identifying, Investigating and Prosecuting Domestic Violence Strangulation Cases.”  Conducted in partnership with the Alliance for Hope International, the November 13, 2018 workshop brought together 50 participants from varied backgrounds, including law enforcement, attorneys, victim/survivor advocates, corporate security, medical providers, mental health professionals, social workers, educators and students.

During the workshop, participants learned the signs and symptoms of strangulation as well as its medical and mental health consequences. In addition, findings from a study of 300 misdemeanor strangulation cases shed light on the importance of investigating and documenting cases of domestic violence and sexual assault strangulation as well as legal avenues for prosecuting abusers. Attendees also learned about tools and resources for working directly with survivors and their families.

“Properly investigating and assessing for strangulation from the onset is essential in domestic violence, dating violence and sexual violence cases. The lethality in violence-related cases with strangulation is high. I am thankful that we were able to bring this specialized training to our university and to community partners in this area,” stated Dr. Tina Nelson-Moss, director of NC State’s Office of Violence Prevention and Threat Management.

* An article about the Ohio judge is available on CNN, but please be advised that it may be disturbing.

If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship violence, sexual violence or stalking and are in need of advocacy services, the Women’s Center has advocates available from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday in Talley Student Union, Suite 5210. After hours, please call the 24/7 Sexual Assault Helpline at 919-515-4444 to be connected with an advocate.

If you would like to support the Women’s Center Survivor Fund, which provides financial assistance to survivors of interpersonal violence, please visit and select the Molly Hays Glander Advocates Program Endowment as your designated contribution.

Janine Kossen is associate director of the Women’s Center.