The Dangers of Strangulation

This post was contributed by Heather, a Hotline advocate

strangulationAt 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
  • hoarseness
  • bruising on the neck or behind your ears
  • discoloration on your tongue
  • ringing in your ears
  • bloodshot eyes
  • dizziness
  • memory loss
  • drooling
  • nausea or vomiting
  • difficulty breathing
  • incontinence
  • 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:

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.

27 replies
  1. Karen says:

    I think I’ve been in a abusive relationship my x didn’t let me have friends or text anyone but him and when I lived with him he would hardly let me see my family and he has choked me before it hurts so bad my throat feels like I can’t even swallow regular food I stopped living with him for a lot of reasons but today in the morning we got into an argument because he wanted to donate blood but I got mad because he’s always leaving me alone in his room and it makes me frustrated that he can’t stay just for a little with me before I went home we got into a fight and he took something from me that was valuable it wasn’t fair so I ripped a photo of us the ones you take in a photo booth and he got so mad and came outside and broke my car mirrors and then I had to go back I left my phone and he got aggressive and started to punch me now I have bruises everywhere and he choked me to death I thought I was gonna die today and while he was choking me he was saying that I was going to die and I kept trying to breath but I couldn’t I thought I almost lost it I finally pushed him off and kiked him off and he got on me started to punch my face over a photo idk if I was wrong for destroying his stuff but its not fair that he took something from me that was suppose to be for the both of us and he has hit me and hair pulling before and now I have had it with the beating I was so dramatized today I could of died I’m scared now though he said he was gonna come back to where I live and mess up my car and im scared he said he would blow it up too and every time I say ima tell on him he says he can get away with it and it scares me I don’t ever want him in my life again and I just want to be left alone.

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Karen,

      Thank you for reaching out to us. This sounds like a very scary situation, and the behaviors you describe are abusive. Isolating you, controlling who you communicate with and choking you are definitely not acceptable behaviors, and as this blog post states, strangulation is very dangerous. We encourage you to contact us directly as soon as you feel safe and ready to do so. Please call 1-800-799-7233 (24/7) or chat here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.

      Reply
  2. SHAY says:

    [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    I’m pregnant and am in a abusive relationship for about 11months now…My partner and i each have two kids, we live together. Thankfully they have not had the chance to witness the physical abuse but i know they know something is wrong, especially with my oldest daughter and she sees my face swollen and bruised. The first couple times he would repeatedly slapped me, has even punched me. I try to protect myself and have even had a chance to bust his lip with a jar when he was going to strangle me and he screamed what did i do like he was the victim.. he had finally stopped with the abuse a couple months ago and then out of nowhere in the middle of an argument two days ago he started strangling and wouldn’t let go repeatedly.. He did care not one bit about my baby , our baby !!! I thought i was going to die, i thought i was going to lose my baby.. He left the next day but i know that he will be back i just don’t know when.. His boys are with me.. I’m scared to death..

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hello SHAY,

      Thank you for your comment. This situation is very concerning to us. It sounds like your partner is a very real threat to your safety and health, and that of your children. It is never okay for someone to treat you this way. We encourage you to contact us directly as soon as you feel safe and ready to do so. You can call 1-800-799-7233 anytime, 24/7, or chat here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time. We may be able to locate resources for you and help create a plan for you and your children to stay safe. We hope to hear from you again soon.

      Reply
  3. Anne says:

    [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    My ex bf(we’re both married to other people) used my own stocking to choke me. I woke up having a seizure & didn’t know what was happening. He said i passed out. It was the scariest moment of my life & believe me I’ve been through it all with him but he has never choked me like this. I have so much anxiety that I will have a stroke down the road cause of this but I can’t tell my dr or anyone because I’m married & shouldn’t have let this man back into my life after all these years.

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Anne,

      Thank you for your comment. This sounds very scary, and we’re so sorry to hear that your ex has treated you this way. It’s very concerning not only that your ex choked you but also that you had a seizure. We would like to help in any way we can. Please get in touch with us either by calling 1-800-799-7233 anytime, or you can chat with an advocate via this website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

      Reply
  4. Tanya says:

    Don’t know what to think atm but I thank god I’m still alive and breathing
    Woke up to my partner strangling me all I can remember is I found it very hard to breath if at all and my throat hurting I managed to get my hand up to tap him on the arm a few times and was like he snapped out of what state he was in and let go of me got up and walked into the bathroom.
    Here I am on the bed trying to not just wake up but recover from what just happened and thinking to myself what the fuk

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Tanya,

      This is such a scary situation, and you absolutely do not deserve to be treated this way by your partner. As we say in this post, strangulation is very dangerous, and we are concerned that your partner chose to behave this way. Whenever you feel safe enough to do so, I encourage you to contact us directly by calling 1-800-799-7233 or chatting here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

      Reply
  5. E says:

    My boyfriend put me in a chokehold today over me attempting to look in his phone. He wouldn’t let go til I dropped his phone. I should have dropped it before it got that far but I think his physicality went overboard. It was very scary and painful to be put in a tight chokehold, especially by someone who professed their love for me 20 minutes before that moment. I called the police on him but the chokehold didn’t leave any marks and he denied it so they did nothing. Later on I realized as the pain set in that he had scraped the back of my ankles with his shoes when he had me in the chokehold. I told the police this in a call after the fact but again they did nothing. I am absolutely devastated and frightened by this situation and the physical pain I feel and powerlessness is heartbreaking and shocking. My neck hurts, my head hurts and my body is already sore. What can I do? Besides staying away from him. Please help.

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hi E,

      This sounds so scary. There is nothing you could have done to justify what your boyfriend did to you. I’m sorry that you did not get the support you needed from the police. We’d like to help you in any way we can. If you feel safe enough to do so, please give us a call at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

      Reply
  6. kayla says:

    I don’t know what to do. I need someone to talk to. I can’t talk to my mom became he won’t let me. I never thought this could happened to me. [This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines] I can’t talk to anyone. He knows what I’m doing all the time. He might even find this. But I need someone to talk to, I need help. I’m scared for my life

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Kayla,

      This sounds like a very scary situation. It concerns us that you are worried your partner might find your comment here, so we have edited it for safety. You do not deserve to be treated this way, and we would like to help in any way we can. We are totally free and completely confidential. Please reach out to us directly by calling 1-800-799-7233 or chatting here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time whenever you feel safe enough to do so.

      Reply
  7. Bobby says:

    I was strangled on May 26th. He grabbed with one hand as he sat on top of me in fetal position. He took my arteriey area and squeezed it hard as he could. It was not for a few seconds. This lasted about 1/1/2 to two minutes and I do not understand how I did not die. He held me as his captor for several weeks being as nice as can be. Then, he drove me to the shore without my medications. I am a post brain and spinal cord injury. I take numerous meds. He came to me and said he booked two nights at the place. I looked at him and my heart sunk because I knew I would not make it two days without the meds without serious problems. I was up all night very sick. In the morning he was angry because I was complaining. He wanted me to try to make it through till the end of the reserved time. I said I could not. He was angry and drove me back to my apartment and left me there in the health crisis. He said he was done with me. He then proceeded to send me message after message and call my phone repeatedly. He fianlly came to my apartment several days later apologizing. He then forced me to leave my apartment with him and took me to his home where he ignored me for several days. Then, he refused to bring me home. He made another threat against my life by picking up a fifty pound weight and bringing it down to my head as if he were going to kill me but stopped it. The next day, he took me home. He was angry because he found out I had gone to the hospital during the few days he dumped me off after the shore. He was furious I had sought help for the strangulation. I told him I did not tell police. And, I actually did NOT tell police. He did not believe me. I had only gone to ER because I feared I may have a blood clot from the strangulation because my face and neck had swelled. He also found out that I took images of the injuries. I tried to assure him I had not notified police. But, he did not trust my word. After the last dump off, I told him I was afraid of him and did not want to return to his home. He has been trying to call for days. Today, he sent a message saying he wanted me to move in with him permanently. I wrote back and said no because he had lost my trust 100% and made me afraid for my life. I have read some articles online about partial strangulation and understand victims can die up to months later from clots and other unseen internal injuries. I am afraid for my life because I know how serious the strangulation was. I am afraid to go to police because of all the threats he has made. I want to relocate but do not have money to do so and shelters are full here in my area. I have found one out of state but have been unable to find funding for the transportation.

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Bobby,

      This is such a scary situation, and I’m so sorry that your partner is treating you this way. It’s very concerning that your partner has been so physically and emotionally abusive toward you. We would like to help you create a plan to stay safe and possibly locate some additional resources for you. Please give us a call at 1-800-799-7233 (24/7) or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

      Reply
  8. Sandra says:

    I was just abused yesterday, he put both his hands around my neck and squeezed and shook me extremely hard until I felt I was going to pass out. The evil and hatred anger in his face was horrible. I called 911, but of course he denies anything. I want to get my belongings from the house but he wont let me have them. The police were no help, actually rude. Ive been curled up in a ball in the corner crying all day. I cant get that vision of him choking me and the horrible things he said out of my head. My neck is sore and my throat hurts, feels closed. Im petrified, im so afraid. I dont know what to do, im so broken inside.

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Sandra,

      I am so sorry that this happened to you. What your partner did was incredibly abusive and dangerous, and there is nothing you could have done to deserve it. I’m also sorry that you did not receive the support you needed from the police. It’s understandable to feel scared, and we’d like to help in any way we can. If you are in a safe place, or can get to a safe place, please give us a call at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central. We hope to hear from you soon.

      Reply
  9. Jenna says:

    i have been with my husband for over 20 years, we have 3 children in which 2 have now moved out. i have been in an abusive marriage for all the years of my marriage. i have left about 3 times but someone he still manages to get me back. one of the things he has done many times was put his hands around my neck. i have told him that what he is doing to me is wrong but he just doesn’t care. i want to leave but so afraid to go. i have no family here so no where to go. i have no friends really because he doesn’t even like for me to talk to other people. i feel so isolated and alone and don’t know where to turn. i want to get away because i’m afaid that one of these days he is going to do some serious damage to me. so where do i even start?

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Jenna,

      Thanks for sharing your story here. We’re very concerned about your husband’s behavior, and we’d like to help you find a place to start. Whenever you feel safe enough to do so, please call us at 1-800-799-7233 (24/7) or chat with us here on the website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.

      Reply
  10. Nicole Garcia-Harvey says:

    Thank you for posting this important information. This form of abuse is constantly overlooked by authority figures, and if it documented it goes onto to be shrugged off. Strangulation can have serious medical consequences, however, I feel many people do not take this action seriously. Perhaps, this is because we don’t hear about strangulation daily as we do gun violence, but this crime needs to be finally classified as a Felony. In doing so, it would be a step forward in helping establish and enforcing laws that would hopefully protect past, present, and future victims of abuse.

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hello Nicole,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We agree that strangulation should be taken very seriously. We appreciate you being a part of our online community and speaking out for survivors!

      Reply
  11. Norm says:

    I was chocked by my wife about 3 weeks ago, or as my support person tells me my wife tried to kill me. I find this hard to except this, still working on it. I love her deeply and we have two wonderful children. I have felt so much guilt that I did something wrong. Our friends have all side with her and I am being reminded every day that I was the “bad” person and caused it. I find it difficult to talk about as so much of the community think this sort of thing only happens to women and the majority of victims are women. My wife is much smaller than me and most people believe her as I am much larger than her. My support person is helping me deal with the mix bag of feelings I carry with me everyday and I am finding it difficult to grasp that it’s not my fault. There is no reason for another person who claims they love you to physically hurt you or verbally abuse you but for some reason my heart keeps getting in the way and makes excuses for her actions.

    I always wondered why women who were abused physically stayed with the abusive man. Now I question myself everyday why I feel so guilty for something that was perpetrated by my wife. It’s not easy to understand the feelings as they change from loving to hating to loving so quickly. My support person is helping me understand and come to grips with what happen. But the hardest thing for me is I know I am acting like the women I used to wounder why they stayed in the relationship. My wife was arrested for Domestic Violence and reminds me when she gets the chance that she was the one who went to jail and how bad it was.

    I hope that my support person can help me understand and come to grips with this. I also hope that if you find yourself in this situation, get out! Get professional help and stay safe! I have a completely different view on this topic now and really feel for those in situations like mine.

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_LC says:

      Hi Norm,

      Thank you for sharing your story with our online community. Experiencing abuse from someone you care about is incredibly painful and something you could never deserve. Regardless of what your wife or anyone else says, there is nothing that could ever make your wife’s violence your fault. Your gender and your size doesn’t make you immune to abuse. Abuse is something that crosses all gender lines and you deserve to have support. This is a very overwhelming thing to navigate and you do not have to do it alone. I am glad to hear that you have a support person to lean on. Another option would be reaching out to a local domestic abuse organization. If you would like to explore your options and get connected to your local resources, we are always here to chat. You can reach us 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and we are on chat everyday from 7am to 2am CST. I also want to let you know about our page on male survivors of abuse at this link.

      Take Care,

      Advocate LC

      Reply
  12. Michelle says:

    I survived strangulation three times in less then a month time. Thankful I was rescued and now I am working on things that will keep me permanently safe. Reading this article really touched a spot in my life that is still fresh and this form abuse along with the gas lighting is pretty serious. I have experienced all forms of abuse with the abuser and this was the last assault that I suffered. I am taking my case very serious and reading this article has put me on the edge of my seat. I now know how serious this is and it won’t go cause he may not stop unless I go to to the biggest forms of protecting my safety. Thank you for the article and letting me share my experiences with you. I pray foe everyones safety from domestic violence and I f you got away I pray for you safety as well. Bless you.

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_LC says:

      Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story with our online community. Abuse is something that you never deserved and you have a right to protect yourself from. Leaving tends to be the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship which makes your physical and emotional safety a priority. I want to let you know about our safety planning page at this link. If you would like talk about what you are going through and develop a safety plan with an advocate, we are always here. We are reachable 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and reachable everyday from 7am to 2am CST.

      Take care

      Advocate LC

      Reply
  13. Cha says:

    Thank you for posting this. I was attacked a couple of days ago and was choked- the person who did this ran away from his home to avoid questioning by the police. When I called 911, the operator tried asking me questions and I couldn’t answer them, all I could do was say I didn’t know and I need help. When the police arrived, the officer did ask if I had any injuries and at the time I know I said I had been choked, but they couldn’t see anything. This person was not arrested, and so far the police have not followed up with either myself or the abuser. I am concerned he is free after what he has done. I have documented the injuries and have photos.
    Since the incident, I have been having some of the issues you have posted – the sore throat, difficulty swallowing and some neck pain. I was on the fence about going to the doctor, but now I know I need to follow up. Again thank you, for posting this.
    I have a couple of questions I hope you can answer- In these incidences, is it best to go to your doctor if you have one?
    And what should I tell the doctor’s office when I call and/or see the doctor? One of the reasons I feel a little hesitant is explaining that it is a dv incident and I do not know if it will get documented correctly? I do not have insurance at the moment, so I am unsure of how much it will cost.
    Thank you again- Cha

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_LC says:

      Hi Cha,

      Thank you for reaching. What you have survived is something that is very traumatic. Regardless of what your abusive ex may have said, the abuse was never your fault and something you couldn’t have caused. He made a choice to be abusive and to choke you and he is the only one to blame for that choice and any consequences that come from it. You have a right to be safe and build a life free of abuse. I want to let you know about a page at this link on documenting abuse. Having a doctors report can serve as evidence of abuse but each state and doctor may document it in different ways. If you are concerned about how that doctor will document it and the cost, you always have the option of calling ahead of time and asking those questions. If cost is a factor, there may be an affordable clinic in your area. 211.org is a hotline that can help you locate your local resources. If you would like to reach out to an advocate to talk about the situation in more depth, we are here 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and they are reachable everyday on chat from 7am to 2am CST.

      Take care,

      Advocate LC

      Reply

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