Nearly 70 people turned out on July 21 in Orono for MCEDV’s training, Responding to High Risk Domestic Violence Cases: Focus on Strangulation. Attendees came from many different fields--including law enforcement, prosecution, advocacy and the military--and represented much of the northern, central and eastern parts of the state.
The panel featured Jen Annis, an advocate with Family Crisis Services; Sherri Thornton, a nurse and Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner from MaineGeneral Medical Center; Lisa Sweatt, a detective with the Portland Police Department; and Alice Clifford, an Assistant District Attorney for Penobscot and Piscataquis Counties. Each expert provided information related to their respective fields, covering topics such as the difference between strangulation and choking, how to investigate and prosecute strangulation cases, and how strangulation fits into an abuser’s overall tactics of power and control.
“We chose to focus this training on the issue of strangulation because we have an increasing understanding of how serious a crime it is, and the elevated level of risk it poses for victims, both in the immediate and longer term,” says Margo Batsie of MCEDV. “Strangulation is absolutely a high-risk indicator, and it is essential that all of us—advocates, law enforcement, health professionals, attorneys--know how to identify and respond to strangulation cases.”
Strangulation has been misunderstood and minimized by the justice and advocacy systems, which have not understood the context in which strangulation occurs and the physiological implications of the crime. Often, there is a lack of visible injury in strangulation cases, which has been a barrier to understanding the significance. “She may not have visible injuries, but a few days later she could die because of being strangled,” noted Sweatt, who drew on her experience investigating strangulation cases in Portland. She added that police need more training in how to document strangulation crimes. “The lack of information [about the strangulation] in the police report doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they don’t know what to ask.”
The project is supported 80% with funds provided through a contract with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, CFS-11-2011A, in the amount of $10,000 and through the generous contribution of time provided by our presenters. It is part of MCEDV’s ongoing work to enhance safety planning and responses to high risk domestic violence cases.
(Pictured below, from left: Sherri Thornton, Alice Clifford, Jen Annis, Lisa Sweatt)