Signs of Strangulation

Did you know strangulation is so serious that according to the National District Attorneys Association, 10% of all violent deaths (not just domestic violence) in the United States are attributable, at least in part, to strangulation? Nearly four out of five victims of strangulation are strangled manually by their attacker’s hands, and 97% of them are also victims of blunt force trauma. The first step in analyzing a case that includes strangulation is recognizing the signs of this kind of assault.

Unfortunately, only 15% of strangulation cases studied had visible signs of injury that could be photographed. In particular, manual strangulation is typically invisible on the victim’s neck, but internally there may be signs of it. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t significant internal injury that a medical expert, like myself, can point to.

While bruising and neck lesions are not always present on a strangulation victim’s neck, there can be other recognizable signs and symptoms which include: difficulty swallowing, ear pain, vomiting blood, swollen tongue, lightheadedness, bloodshot eyes and changes in vision, slurred speech, or raspy voice.

The majority of medical experts agree that manual strangulation is a form of “lethal force,” given that not only can it cause death, but it’s also one of the best predictors of a future homicide. A study published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine says that in domestic violence cases where women survived strangulation, those same women are 7 times more likely to be a future homicide victim.

Strangulation is so dangerous because more serious injuries can occur from trauma to the neck than to any other part of the body. That’s because all of the blood and oxygen flows from our body to our brain through the neck, which conversely is the most unprotected and vulnerable part of our body. This is just one reason it takes so little pressure to strangle someone. It only takes about four pounds of pressure to occlude a person’s jugular vein. Once that blood flow gets cut off, a victim has 10 seconds before going unconscious and 50 seconds past that, death becomes a real possibility.

Strangulation may affect a victim’s ability to breathe, but it can also impede oxygen flow to and from the brain. Restricting both the trachea and the jugular vein can cause asphyxia and unconsciousness really quickly unfortunately, but still may not leave any marks on the neck.

As a medical expert, I can see the signs where others, like police officers, may not. I know the signs to look for and point the jury to. Let me help you move towards a successful outcome for your case.
Do you have questions or need more information? Please contact me and I would be happy to discuss your case.