I have been strangled or choked

Has your partner ever...

  • Tried to strangle or ‘choke’ you? (put hands around your throat)
  • Tried to stop you from breathing by putting hands around your neck, pressing against your throat, or smothering you?

If any of these things are happening to you, then you could be in danger of being seriously injured or killed.

We encourage you to ring Shine’s Helpline 0508-744-633 to discuss your situation and the options available to you to become safe.

Most people get better after a strangulation injury, however sometimes longer term problems or injuries may result. It is important that you seek medical advice from a doctor as soon as possible, and let them know that you have been strangled.

Strangulation is very dangerous

Strangulation is when pressure is applied on or around the neck with enough force to stop someone breathing, which means that no oxygen or blood is flowing to the brain. Pressure can be applied in different ways – with one or both hands, or with something like a rope, or anything putting pressure across the throat.

Strangulation is a common and very dangerous way for abusers to control their victims by making them feel afraid or intimidated. Smothering, such as with a pillow, can also control victims with fear.

Abusive partners often minimise strangulation and say things like ‘But I never hit you.’ It’s important to know that strangulation is often more dangerous than hitting, punching or kicking. If you’ve been strangled by a partner or ex-partner, you are in greater danger of being seriously injured or killed by them in the future.1

Strangulation timeline

A small amount of pressure around the neck can result in loss of consciousness within 10 to 20 seconds, and can cause death within 4 to 5 minutes.2 When someone is strangled:

External pressure around neck
Difficulty breathing, pain
 
Brain deprived of oxygen
Dizzyness, weakness of limbs,‘popping’ eyes, blurred vision 
Blacking out, fainting, loss of consciousness
10-20 seconds 
DEATH
4-5 minutes

Victims’ experience

Many victims describe four stages of thought while being strangled:

  1. Denial An almost out-of-body experience.
  2. Realisation Realisation that they are being strangled quickly overcomes denial.
  3. Primal A vigorous struggle ensues in an attempt to preserve airway and life.
  4. Resignation Tiring victims resign themselves to dying and often wonder who will take care of their children. Immediately afterwards, victims may be relieved they are still alive. Over time, victims often minimise the experience. In the hours, days or even weeks after being strangled, victims may:

  • find it difficult to breathe, talk, or swallow
  • have neck and throat pain, coughing
  • vomit or feel nauseous
  • have loss of bladder or bowel control
  • have ringing in the ears, dizziness, headaches, memory loss
  • feel confused, disoriented, restless or tired

Often there are no visible injuries, but there may be serious internal injuries such as brain damage. It is important to see a doctor for medical advice as soon as possible. You need to tell the doctor you have been strangled, so they know what to look for. Ask the doctor to document any injuries for future reference and potentially as evidence.

You can order a free pamphlet or print off a pdf with this information and references here: http://www.2shine.org.nz/shop/written-resources-dvds/strangulation-information-pamphlet

Thank you to Cathy Jordan (Registered Psychologist); School of Psychology, Massey University; Dr Clare Healy and Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care for your assistance with this information.