In our community, strangulation is often misunderstood as choking – but its cases have increased, and it’s important we recognize that only 10% of lethal strangulations have physical markings. Don’t be in the dark – #KnowTheDifference!

Having an understanding of the true meaning of strangulation and being able to recognize its signs and symptoms on both ourselves and others can be beneficial. The incidence of strangulation cases in our county has been on the rise, with some individuals using it as a form of sexual stimulation and others holding “choking challenges”. It is crucial for our community to understand the serious consequences of such actions.

Strangulation, unlike choking, refers to the obstruction of blood vessels and/or air passages in the neck due to the application of external pressure. Forensic Nurse Practitioner, Paula Newman-Skomski, shared with local agencies at Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center, what the effects of strangulation are causing and what we are seeing in Snohomish County.

“It is a serious act, and it can be brushed off by victims because there are no visible marks”- Paula Newman-Skomski

There is not enough research to support exactly what percentage of strangulation victims have visible marks, but it can be about 50% of victims that result in visible markings. To visualize how easy it can be to accidently harm someone during the act of strangulation, think about opening a can of soda. This act takes about 20 lbs of pressure to do, while only placing 11 lbs of pressure on both carotid arteries can cause a victim to fall unconscious.

Victims might not say anything, because “[they] were just upset”. Because “there were no visible marks”. But it can be crucial for victims to seek medical attention. With strangulation, there can be delayed symptoms or even death.

Symptoms of strangulation aside from potential visible markings, include headaches, dizziness, faded vision, loss of memory and more. There can also be markings within the mouth, such as the inner lip, or petechiae, small red spots on the face, ears, or scalp.

Know that you are not alone, and all states have passed felony laws related to strangulation.

“Take strangulation reports very seriously”- Paula Newman-Skomski

If you or someone you know is being abused, report it. Seek medical assistance and call 911. No one should live in fear. 

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