DA steps up training for domestic violence
With instances of strangulation in domestic violence cases increasing in the region, the Northwesetrn District Attorney’s Office is stepping up training in this area for police and prosecutors.
There were 170 reported cases of strangulation in the district from 2009 to 2011.
Non-fatal strangulation, as it is called, was the focus of the “Advanced Strangulation Course” taught by leading experts in the field recently. Two staff members of the DA’s office, Jennifer Suhl, chief of the Domestic Violence and Adult Sexual Assault Unit, and Mary Kociela, domestic violence projects director, were selected to attend the week-long national training. Information gained from the course will be used to strengthen the DA’s domestic violence high risk team project and to train first responders in the district.
Oftentimes, domestic violence abusers strangle their partner not to kill them, but to let them know they can kill them, Suhl and Kociela said. Strangulation is used as a weapon of power and control, effectively silencing and terrorizing victims in abusive relationships.
In 99 percent of non-fatal strangulation cases, it is a male abuser strangling a female victim. Statistically, if a woman is strangled by her partner, she is seven times more likely to be killed by that partner. However, victims often have no physical signs and do not communicate the attack to the police.
“We are training police officers to ask on every domestic call if the victim has been strangled. We can’t assume she will tell us. If the answer is yes, we need police to complete a standard checklist and attach it to their police report,” Kociela said.
“Recently, we developed a comprehensive worksheet for the police to complete with the assistance of the victim in cases of non-fatal strangulation. Completion of this worksheet significantly increases the amount of important information documented in the immediate aftermath of the crime and greatly assists prosecutors in being able to effectively prosecute these serious cases,” Suhl said. “We are also training prosecutors how to utilize the information gathered and how to present the evidence in a meaningful way to a jury.”
There have been five domestic violence homicides since 2010 in Franklin and Hampshire Counties.