Investigating and prosecuting incidents of domestic abuse can be extremely difficult. Victims often recant out of fear, concern for their children or pets, or devotion to their abuser. And even when a victim is intent on seeing their abuser prosecuted under criminal laws, they are forced to deal with a criminal justice system that is not always well-equipped to deal with common forms of domestic violence, such as strangulation.

California is one of several states that have made strangulation a punishable offense under state domestic violence law. Previously, state legislators resisted making choking a felony offense because it tends not to leave any physical evidence, such as bruising or blood. This made it difficult for law enforcement officials and prosecuting attorneys to prove that the abuse occurred, leaving them to rely solely on victim or witness testimony regarding the strangulation.

However, that does not mean that choking does not take place, or that it is not a serious offense. Data shows that approximately 10 percent of violent deaths are due to strangulation every year in the United States, with six female choking victims to every one male. While not all of those choking deaths are related to domestic violence, research shows that women who are in relationships with a history of abuse who are, at some point, strangled by their abuser are up to 10 times more likely to be killed at the hands of their abuser at some point in the future.

With each state that passes a law making strangulation a felony, there comes additional evidence that such laws are sorely needed. In November, a choking law went into effect in New York. By February, a mere 15 weeks later, there had been a staggering 2,000 arrests under the new law. Considering that only about half of all choking incidents are ever reported to law enforcement, the number of arrests is indisputable proof that more needs to be done to prevent choking and protect victims of domestic violence.

Source: Reuters, "New York law now makes choking a crime, results in 2,000 arrests", Neale Gulley, 7 April 2011