Strangulation is not to be confused with “choking”.  Strangulation is described as pressure being applied from the outside, cutting off airflow and/or blood vessels in the neck, preventing oxygen from reaching the brain.  Choking, meanwhile, refers to a blockage or obstruction inside the throat which makes it difficult to breathe.

 Strangulation is a major warning sign for lethality in domestic violence cases.  Perpetrators often use strangling as a form of power and control over their intimate partner.  Pressure placed upon the victim’s throat can cause unconsciousness and death.  Strangulation is just below homicide on the continuum of domestic violence risk assessment. 

Strangulation is relatively easy to identify as many symptoms occur in the facial areas.

Some common visible signs of strangulation include:

  • Petechiae (red spots) in the eyes or the whites of the eyes may be completely filled with blood, 
  • Swollen lips
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Facial drooping or swelling
  • Scratch marks to neck or face 
  • Raspy or hoarse voice 
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Drooling 
  • Petichiae on earlobes 
  • Bruising on or bleeding from ears
  • Swollen tongue 
  • Bumps on head from falling or blunt force trauma.  

There are also signs that are not visible that a victim may suffer from such as:

  • Intense pain
  • Vision changes
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Cuts in the mouth
  • Swelling of the neck or throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Voice changes

Strangulation may not cause death immediately and has been known to cause death several days later due to collapsed trachea and/or tracheal damage. Strangulation can cause serious health issues and psychological problems. 

Under the law, it is not necessary for a victim to suffer any actual injury in order for the State to charge a person with assault by strangulation. An aggressor’s intent may be inferred simply from the use of physical violence.