Strangulation? In North Dakota?

When I wrote this story about sexual assault, I also talked to Mary Thysell a little bit about domestic violence, an even more common problem, and strangulation came up.

I said I was fairly certain that in Minnesota, choking someone meant additional penalties under the law, and Thysell corrected me, pointing out that “choking” and “strangulation” are not the same thing.

She gave me a brochure: Strangulation in North Dakota.

I wish this brochure didn’t have to exist.

In it, described in accurate, dispassionate and clinical language, it states that strangulation counts as “serious bodily injury” in North Dakota’s Century Code, and therefore constitutes an aggravated assault.

It also states there are four types of strangulation: Hanging, manual (bare hands), chokehold (elbow bend compression) and ligature (using a cord-like object).

All very matter-of-fact. Other than a list of “common trauma victim thoughts and stages,” there’s very little indication of the shock, terror and desperate attempts to survive these people must undergo.

Are there any other reasons to strangle someone than attempting to kill her, or him? At best, the strangler can’t possibly care if he kills or permanently damages the victim, can he?

What does it feel like to know that a loved one is trying to kill you, or maybe just doesn’t care whether he or she does?

Here are some facts from the brochure.

  • 10 percent of all violent deaths are from strangulation.
  • It only takes 11 pounds of pressure placed on both carotid arteries for 10 seconds to result in a loss of consciousness.
  • Brain death occurs in 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Death can occur in 11.5 seconds if both arteries are cut off or blocked.
  • Underlying brain damage can mean that death occurs several weeks later, too.

I still wish the brochure didn’t have to exist.

5 Responses

  1. Hi Kari,

    In your blog you ask the question, “Are there any other reasons to strangle someone than attempting to kill her, or him?” For a perpetrator of domestic violence there is one very big reason.

    Sometimes, during a violent incident, an abuser will repeatedly strangle his partner to unconsciousness, then let her come to only to do it again, and again. He is not doing so in an effort to kill her, he is doing it to give her the very clear message that he CAN kill her any time he wants and the next time he wraps his hands around her throat may just be the time.

    I, too, wish that brochure didn’t have to exist. I wish none of our brochures had to exist. In fact, I wish Safe Shelter didn’t have to exist, but it does and it will continue to exist as long as there is a need and as long as we can gather the resources to keep our doors open.

    Thank you for a great article on sexual assault, and for this blog that will help inform people about something we often make light of. I sometimes hear people say, in a joking way of course, “Oh, I could just choke him.” Would they would use that phrase as easily if they had to say, “Oh, I could just strangle him,” instead? I wonder.

    Lynne Tally,
    Executive Director
    Safe Shelter
    Jamestown, ND

    P.S. Because 95% of the victims we work with are women, we choose not to use confusing gender-neutral language. Be assured that any male vicim who seeks our assistance will be provided the full range of services available at Safe Shelter.

    1. It does seem to me that anyone willing to strangle another person is willingly accepting the risk that the victim could die or be permanently damaged, though, surely.

      How common is that type of repetitive terrorizing behavior? So much of abuse seems to be about controlling the victim.

  2. You’re right, abuse is ALL about power and control. Strangulation or the threat of it is certainly a very powerful tool for maintaining that control. While, in the back of his mind, he must know that strangling his partner even for a short period of time can be very harmful or deadly, that is not likely what he is thinking at that moment. And if she were to die his response would probably be, “I didn’t mean to kill her.” That, of course, does not relieve him of his responsibility for the crime. I don’t have hard numbers for you, Kari, but it happens more often than anyone would imagine, and the fact that it happens at all is heartbreaking.

  3. Nadine

    Regarding your North Dakota article about strangulation:
    When I was just twenty-one years old, freshly arrived in America to work with my country’s foreign service in Washington DC, I was followed one early rainy night in November that I was returning home after having gone to watch my first matinee movie with a co-worker from the Embassy. I had been tricked into believing that it was my neighbor friend calling me by friendly flashing his headlights, as I often babysat their five daughters. What followed was going to, in seconds and forever, most permanently alter the direction of my life and destiny, when I was assaulted at knife point, instead, then brutally raped and sodomized in my car, finally strangled when I attempted to alert a passerby who was walking across the street in the rain…

    What saved my life in the nick of time, as I knew I only had seconds before I lost consciousness, was the vision of my mother overseas receiving a telegram on her kitchen doorstep announcing my murder in Georgetown. And I just couldn’t bear to cause her this kind of grief, so while being completely overpowered by this brutal and deranged man, bracing myself against his chest to gain some precious time, I turned to God, instead, and quickly plea bargain with Him that if He spared my life, I would pay Him back later, somehow…

    Having been raised in catholic boarding schools in Africa, while experiencing four years of war even as a teen, that eventually tore our lives apart, I still hoped in miracles, although I also always had been the rebel from the bush who had to challenge all teachings. But I knew this time my life was not going to be spared, short of a miracle. And no sooner did I utter in my heart this promise, that something indeed totally miraculous saved me, that was going to change the course of my life forever.

    As my car was suddenly being infilled with a strong energy of Love that completely melted my heart as well, my aggressor was so overtaken by this powerful energy that he released the grip of his strong hands and thumbs on my neck and asked ‘what did you do that for?’ And just as quickly, I was whispered from within the words that would eventually free me. When I managed to run down the street toward my neighbors’ homes calling for help, I watched all the lights being turned off in their living rooms while not one of them came to my rescue. Finally, after coming to a neighbor’s home and watching him through the partly open drapes push his wife in the kitchen and turn off the lights as well, I banged enough on their front door, pleading for help, that the man finally let me in and called the police.

    My aggressor was never found; the Embassy brushed this embarrassing incident under their oriental rugs and never addressed it nor my grief; and my parents would not hear the story, while my father urged me to ‘not blow things out of proportion’ and to honor my contract to the end. The year was 1969. What followed for the next twenty years of my young life plunged me repeatedly into severe depression and despair, for having made the wrong choices that would lead me into disappointing relationships and a marriage so psychically abusive, that at the end of thirteen years in America and at the age of forty, I was a finished woman…

    Recently divorced and very traumatized, having just lost my job in a town in South Texas where I had no friends and people mocked my foreign accent, I had collapsed one night by the edge of my bed, and for the first time in twenty years, turned to prayer, begging God to either help me or take me back, that I could no longer endure such life of abuse and brokenness. That is when I remembered my prayer and sacred promise, the miracle that had taken place instantly, which had saved my life. However, in the shock and the grief that had followed, with the nightly terrors that kept me on edge for a very long time, I had lost track of the effect my supplication had had, and had turned away from God instead, remembering only the trauma.

    No sooner did I then surrender that my life was literally taken over, and for the past twenty four years, having been provided all the sacred Knowledge and the experiences to support it, I have become a very gifted, visionary, intuitive and world traveled healer/medicine woman/bodyworker, teacher of meditation and mantropathy, a system that I devised that heals traumas of war and other forms of aggression from within, through meditation and an application of the chakra system of healing, the internal chanting of ancient sacred sounds and syllables, while also using mudras, hand gestures that work with the energetic flow.

    A Bhakti yoga practitioner who has traveled extensively in search of those healing answers, and who relocated numerous times, often manifesting my visions thousands of miles away, I have lived in four countries on three continents and seven States in America, all while living with and recovering from severe multiple traumas. While studying daily and practicing my gifts, I also became a master manifestor, a ‘transformer of reality’ who has the ability to shift the way people think, in order to bring profound changes in their lives.

    I found a way to heal from a most brutal near-death experience and the other various forms of traumas and abuse I encountered since I left Africa, and to return to joy and much happiness, youthfulness and vitality, with all needs met even, regardless of the outside circumstances that may not be very favorable yet to an immigrant speaking with a foreign accent. Instead of the life of despair that I had been destined for, to be ‘handicapped for the rest of my life’, as I had been told, I became a world-traveled, multicultural, multi-skilled nomadic-type medicine woman, living and walking the path of the wounded shaman, because it was in my destiny that I instantly turn in full Faith and trust to the Spiritual Dimension, surviving through this miracle, but mostly because I had a sacred promise to keep, a covenant that I could no longer walk away from.

    I learned that sexual crimes seal the throat chakra, sealing their victims from more fully manifesting their lives. Because my aggressor had always threatened to kill me if I spoke or called for help while he kept a knife on my throat, and also strangled me after my sexual assault, and because I had not been encouraged to speak of this or even was denied that opportunity, I kept everything hidden in silence, not realizing how much of life was then passing me by, and why I felt so diminished, deprived and despondent at times, especially in my relationships with men.

    Nothing was passing through my throat, my voice, except for the maintenance of my life and of my children’s, until I discovered the techniques and received the initiations that propelled me on this healing path. Now, I not only am this gifted healer, but an accomplished designer/real estate renovator bringing new life and colors to eyesores, an artist in many forms whose last goal is to travel the world speaking to survivors of traumas, offering simple mantras that will start to effect their own miraculous wonders…

    I now reside in Northern California surrounded with my adult daughters and grandson and last year returned to Africa for the first time in 37 years, but to Egypt this time, looking for new meanings and ways to start teaching my spiritual healing techniques that restore health, happiness and the manifestation of one’s dreams and goals, so powerful are those tools. For anyone interested or in need, I can be reached any time at 707-272 -8331.

    Thank you for this opportunity to let out my voice, at last…

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