Curl up with this year's Housing Guide for dorm friendly recipes, curfew throwbacks and more, click here

Strangulation’s hidden role in domestic abuse

essure on the throat before a person is rendered unconscious. Once the pressure is remove, the victim wakes up with a raspy voice and possible brain damage, but no physical marks to show an officer. 

After years of research and studies on reported cases of strangulation in romantic relationships, Manisha Joshi, an assistant professor in the USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, wrote a paper on the role of strangulation in intimate partner violence (IPV) that was published in October’s issue of American Journal of Public Health.

In the paper, Joshi and colleagues discuss strangulation, reduced blood flow to and from the brain via the external compression of blood vessels in the neck and as a human rights and health concern with the main victims being women. 

“A person could have been strangled and you would never know,” she said. 

Joshi said she was first intrigued by the idea of strangulation in IPV as a doctoral student of Susan Sorenson at the University of Pennsylvania. 

After a lecture by a medical examiner about the effects of strangulation and the lack of evidence in IPV cases, Joshi could not get the thought out of her mind that external evidence such as bruises were undetectable for a few days after the event. 

Manual strangulation, gripping the throat with one’s hands, appears to be the most common method of strangulation in IPV, according to the publication, although ligatures, belts and scarves, are also used. 

“It is a very unique type of violence in that it doesn’t immediately leave marks,” said Sorenson, the paper’s co-author.

Victims of strangulation can suffer minor brain damage, affecting things like memory and cognition, along with other physical and psychological implications, Sorenson said. 

About one of every 100 women in the general population, in the studied areas, reported their intimate partner had strangled them, Sorenson said.

“A person might be walking in front of you, you might be talking to that person and you may never know that this person was strangled,” Joshi said.

To help prevent intimate partner violence, Joshi uses her research in teaching her USF students in School of Social Work. 

Joshi also uses her knowledge to train 911 dispatchers, hotline operators, police officers and others on how to better collect evidence from a victim. 

The training ranges from assessing how a person’s voice sounds to asking about their symptoms and how to correctly ask a question so that the victim fully understands what the interviewer is asking.   

“I am committed to making the world a safer place for women,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson has been an advocate fighting violence against women for about 25 years, working with community-based organizations and teaching classes on violence prevention. 

For victims of this or similar violence, Joshi said the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a 24/7 confidential hotline with trained advocates to help victims, available at 1-800-799-SAFE.