Gabby Petito died of strangulation. And while her case has opened up the national conversation about partner abuse, experts hope the tragedy will shed light on a more serious threat: potential strangulation in domestic violence.
strangulation is defined as killing someone by strangulation. But a growing number of domestic violence experts believe that the term should be used to apply to situations where the incident is non-fatal.
According to a media guide by Jane Doe Inc., “When journalists use the term ‘staffle’ correctly, they increase the public’s familiarity with a specific type of abuse and the serious short-term and long-term consequences of this type of violence. accept it.” Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Harassment and Domestic Violence.
Experts say that attacks that try to deprive someone of oxygen are more common than most people realize. Eve Valera, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who studies intimate partner violence and brain injury, a woman attacked in this way by a partner has a seven-fold risk of murder by that partner.
“This is one of the most frightening experiences that women report in intimate partner violence situations,” Valera said. “It’s really about power and control… It’s like saying, ‘I can take your life at any moment.'”
Petito’s death was ruled a homicide last month; On Tuesday, a coroner gave the cause of death as strangulation. The vlogger’s video of her life on the road with her boyfriend, Brian Laundry, gained worldwide attention after she disappeared in Wyoming in late August.
Since then the laundry has also disappeared. Police and the FBI have designated him as a “person of interest” in the case, citing previous reports of possible domestic violence when the two were traveling together. He has not been charged in connection with his murder.
Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said on Tuesday, “Unfortunately this is one of many deaths across the country of people involved in domestic violence, and it is unfortunate that these other deaths did not receive as much coverage.”
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While it’s impossible to know for certain whether the laundry had anything to do with Petito’s murder, there were red flags about violence in the relationship, Valera said.
While the couple was in Utah, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office issued a 911 call on August 12 in which the caller said he saw “the gentleman was slapping the girl.”
Body camera video shows Petito shedding tears during a police stop on the side of the highway. The footage shows a police officer talking to the laundry, who said the two had been at loggerheads for several days, although officers at the scene took no action other than asking the couple to separate for the night. .
Intimate partner violence experts say more awareness is needed about the risks of potential strangulation. Leigh Goodmark, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Law School, where she teaches the Gender Violence Clinic, said one way to take the issue more seriously is to differentiate between “suffocation” and “strangulation.”
Valera said that some victims of domestic violence may report that they have been “choked” because they think the “throttle” must be fatal or involve an object such as a rope or other restraint. This may cause law enforcement and others in the judicial system to take the incident less seriously.
What you do on food is choking, Goodmark said. “Strangulation” in the context of domestic violence discussion occurs when someone uses their hands, another body part, or an object to constrict another person’s airway and restrict the flow of oxygen – obese causally or non-lethally.
“When people say ‘suffocation,’ it actually reduces the amount of strangulation and its intentional damage,” Goodmark said.
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In non-fatal cases, strangulation can cause a number of symptoms, including hoarseness, shortness of breath, memory loss, loss of consciousness, and even brain injury. Valera’s research has indicated that brain injury is not uncommon in domestic violence cases.
“There are more women who have experienced repetitive, or at least single, but probably mild traumatic brain injuries from their partners than professional athletes,” Valera said.
But evidence of strangulation is not always visible; Experts say that strangulation can also cause death without leaving any external mark on the body. There is therefore a need for more education on the prevention of strangulation and intimate partner violence.
“It’s so stigmatizing that people don’t want to accept it,” Valera said, emphasizing the need for communities to be aware of the risks.
According to Goodmark, more people need to be aware that a single instance of possible strangulation from an intimate partner is a huge red flag for future homicide.
“We really need to focus on prevention and education, which means your future exposure to strangulation experiences,” Goodmark said.
Valera said that during the coronavirus pandemic, intimate partner violence – and its seriousness – has “skyrocketed”. This means that incidents of women being strangled by their partners have certainly increased, Valera said. She said we should check on each other, because intimate partner violence can happen without anyone noticing.
“It’s always good to open up the conversation, ‘I know COVID has made things very stressful and bad for a lot of families and people. Are you feeling safe in your relationship, is everything okay? ” Valera said.