Momentum grows for making strangulation a felony
Clackamas County victim service providers are advocating for the passage of Oregon Senate Bill 1562 — introduced this legislative session by Sen. Kathleen Taylor (D-Milwaukie/Southeast Portland) — which would reclassify strangulation in domestic violence cases to a felony.
Victim advocates say that the passage of SB 1562 would provide longer-term safety for survivors by putting offenders in jail for time periods consistent with other felonies. Currently in Oregon, strangulation is classified as a misdemeanor unless witnessed by a child, the victim is known to be pregnant, the offender has prior convictions or if a weapon is used.
"I've seen firsthand the physical/emotional impact on survivors, and support this crucial bill strengthening our domestic-violence laws to hold offenders accountable," Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts recently wrote on Twitter.
Melissa Erlbaum, executive director of Clackamas Women's Services, said she was honored to be part of a multidisciplinary effort of caring and committed partners here in Clackamas County who understand the critical nature of this issue.
"It is imperative that we prevent the life threatening and life altering effects of strangulation and hold our society's most dangerous criminals accountable," she said. "Strangulation assault results in serious injuries to the victim and shows up frequently in the actions of mass shooters and people who murder police officers — this is a crime against society."
A delegation of victim service providers attended the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention this week in San Diego. The Institute was a four-day training offered by the Alliance for HOPE International to prosecutors, advocates, doctors and nurses from across America, preparing them to investigate and prosecute nonfatal strangulation cases and advocate for victims.
The Clackamas County delegation was led by A Safe Place Family Justice Center and included representatives from Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Clackamas County District Attorney's Office, Health Housing and Human Services, Lake Oswego Police Department and Clackamas Women's Services. Their attendance at the Institute is the beginning of a larger effort to develop a multidisciplinary strangulation prevention and response protocol for Clackamas County. The delegation intends to bring the information learned at the Institute back to Clackamas County to improve identification and response to domestic and sexual violence survivors who have been strangled, and hold offenders accountable.
"Across America, more than 50 percent of all high-risk domestic violence victims are strangled by their partners. Most survive but many suffer brain injuries and other major long-term health impacts and don't even know it," said Gael Strack, CEO of Alliance for HOPE International. "The lack of external injuries and the lack of medical training for domestic violence and sexual assault professionals has minimized the focus on this type of violence."