Strangulation injuries, just like every other injury, can cause unimaginable harm to their victims.
It doesn’t just end at leaving external and internal organs damaged; they cause psychological traumas to victims who are lucky to survive.
Strangulation is a type of asphyxia. It’s caused by pressure on the neck, which threatens cerebral perfusion and disturbs the air passage in the cervical area.
A victim of strangulation can get unconscious in a few seconds due to the fact that their airway has been blocked.
The blockage of the carotid arteries, a major blood vessel in the neck that supplies blood to the brain, neck, and face, can also make a victim of strangulation unconscious. Unconsciousness from strangulation can also happen due to the blockage of the jugular veins.
However, not all airway blockage in the neck can be referred to as strangulation.
Choking is also a form of airway obstruction in the neck, but it differs from strangulation because it’s caused by internal factors or pressures.
With strangulation, the pressure or obstruction around the neck is caused by an external pressure which could be a force from a suspended object and intentional pressing of the neck by a third party.
Forms of Strangulation Injuries
Popularly, strangulation injuries can arise from any of the three significant strangulation forms: hanging, ligature, and manual.
Hanging strangulation happens when a ligature around the neck suspends a person’s entire body weight.
Ligature strangulation occurs when the external pressure around the neck results from a ligature only.
Manual strangulation occurs when the external pressure on the neck is imposed due to a force from a third party’s hands, biceps, or legs.
Causes of Strangulation Injuries
Injuries from strangulation can happen in different shapes. It can result from suicide attempts, homicide attempts, accidental clinical scenarios, auto-erotic activities, non-consensual sexual acts, injuries from combat sports, etc.
However, strangulation injuries are most common in domestic violence, and they are treated as assaults. The California Strangulation Manual stated that “today, it is understood unequivocally that strangulation is one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence.”
It has been reported that abusive partners who engage in strangulation use it to breed fear and control the other party. In some cases, these abusers who don’t have the intention to kill their partners by strangulation end up doing so, and they are charged in court with murder.
The Law and Strangulation
According to a publication by the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention and the California District Attorneys Association, it was stated that “as of January 2013, 37 states have passed strangulation laws that provide a clear legislative definition of the violent, life-threatening assault now properly referred to as “strangulation.”
This clearly shows that cases of strangulation aren’t swept under the rug.
The Arizona Statute 13-1204(B) on aggravated assault also provides a clear standing on strangulation, stating that “a person commits aggravated assault if they intentionally or knowingly impedes the normal breathing or circulation of blood by applying pressure to the throat, neck or obstructing the nose and mouth.”
The case of Cupp v. Murphy is an example of why non-fatal strangulation cases should be properly handled. This fatal one led to the defendant’s conviction on charges of second-degree murder of his wife by a jury in an Oregon court.
The woman was strangled in her home in Portland, and abrasions and lacerations on her throat were discovered.
Traces of skin and blood cells and fabric from the victim’s nightgown were found in samples obtained from the defendant’s fingernails, who was the husband of the victim.
Another case of assault by strangulation is the case of People v. Rosa, where the defendant was convicted of assault with intent to commit murder against his ex-wife.
Why Strangulation Cases Shouldn’t Be Handled With Levity
It may be challenging to prove that any major injuries have happened to the victim in some strangulation cases.
This is largely due to the fact that there are no physical marks showing traces of injury caused by another party applying external pressure to the neck of the victim.
However, with the advent of forensic science, one can easily prove that harm has been caused to the victim even if there are no physical marks.
Victims who survived strangulation typically have some symptoms evident. They include;
- Dysphagia – Difficulty swallowing food or liquid
- Dyspnea – Difficulty breathing
- Dysphonia – Complete or partial loss of voice
- Neck swelling, etc.
These injuries can result in the victim having to go through medical care, leading to loss of productive time, money spent on medications and surgery, etc.
One doesn’t have to try to show how these injuries happen by mere words of mouth. An expert witness can dive deep into showing that these injuries are caused by strangulation using litigation animation.
A litigation animation can showcase how the airway obstruction from the external force exerted by another person led to the injuries in the victim even though the injuries are not visible to the naked eye.
Also, litigation animation will be a vital tool in tackling facts obstruction in some strangulation cases.
For example, Pubmed.gov recorded a case of homicidal strangulation disguised as suicidal hanging strangulation.
With litigation animation, the facts of such a case like this, which has been established by forensic experts, medical experts, and homicide experts, can be illustrated to the jury to clearly show how the homicidal strangulation happened as opposed to claims that it’s suicidal strangulation.
The fact about strangulation cases can be twisted, which will lead to injustice. However, with the understanding that not all strangulation cases are suicidal, attorneys can take advantage of litigation animation to further demystify the complexities around the case and make the facts bare to the jury.