This post was contributed by Heather, a Hotline advocate
At The Hotline, we often speak with people who don’t think they are being abused because they aren’t being hit, aren’t being hit with a closed fist or aren’t being physically abused on a regular or daily basis. While abuse can include frequent, violent attacks, abuse can also include monitoring your phone, restricting access to finances, controlling who you spend time with and many other behaviors that aren’t physical at all. However, one of the most serious and deadly forms of abuse is physical, but many survivors are still hesitant to label strangulation or “choking” as abusive.
The information in this article is not meant to scare you, but you deserve to know the facts so you can make the best plan to keep yourself safe. If your partner has ever put their hands around your neck, put you in a “sleeper hold” or used anything else to strangle you like a scarf, necklace, belt, rope, etc. keep reading.
Because strangulation can be very serious and symptoms of brain damage can take hours, days or even weeks to develop, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible, especially if you have:
- a sore throat
- difficulty swallowing
- neck pain
- bruising on the neck or behind your ears
- discoloration on your tongue
- ringing in your ears
- bloodshot eyes
- memory loss
- nausea or vomiting
- difficulty breathing
- a seizure
- a miscarriage
- changes in mood or personality like agitation or aggression
- changes in sleep patterns
- changes in vision such as blurriness or seeing double
- fainted or lost consciousness
It’s possible to experience strangulation and show no symptoms at first but die weeks later because of brain damage due to lack of oxygen and other internal injuries. For this reason, and for a safe way to document the abuse, we strongly recommend you consider seeing a doctor if your partner has strangled or choked you. Also know that you always have the right to file a police report, press charges for an assault or seek a restraining order against someone who is choosing to be abusive towards you.
Facts You Deserve To Know:
- Strangulation is a significant predictor for future lethal violence
- If your partner has strangled you in the past, your risk of being killed by them is 10 times higher
- Strangulation is one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence: unconsciousness may occur within seconds and death within minutes.
Filling out the lethality assessment, especially with an advocate at your local domestic violence agency, can help you learn more about your personal risk from your partner. This survivor’s story talks about how long-term memories can be affected by traumatic brain injuries caused by strangulation and concussion. We know that the details of abuse can get fuzzy, sometimes from gaslighting or from the abuse itself, so if it’s safe to do so we recommend documenting as much of the abuse you’re experiencing as possible. If you need to call the doctor, The Hotline or your local domestic violence agency but making calls is dangerous for you, here are some helpful tips that might work for you.
To find a domestic violence agency near you, or for help making a plan to stay safe, please call our advocates 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or chat with us from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.