Sobering Assessment of Domestic Violence Victims

Fifty per cent of domestic-violence victims are strangled at some point in the course of their relationship—often repeatedly, over years—and the overwhelming majority of strangulation perpetrators are men. Those strangled to the point of losing consciousness are at the highest risk of dying in the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours after the incident, from strokes, blood clots, or aspiration (choking on their own vomit). Such incidents can cause brain injury—mild or traumatic—not only by cutting off oxygen to the brain but because they are often accompanied by blunt-force trauma to the head. Still, victims of domestic violence are not routinely screened for strangulation or brain injury in emergency rooms, and the victims themselves, who tend to have poor recollections of the incidents, are often not even aware that they’ve lost consciousness. This means that diagnoses are rarely formalized, the assaults and injuries are downplayed, and abusers are prosecuted under lesser charges.