Hot topics | Coronavirus pandemic

Before the domestic violence becomes fatal, a new team of nurses, cops, and advocates is attempting to assist domestic violence victims

Before the domestic violence becomes fatal, a new team of nurses, cops, and advocates is attempting to assist domestic violence victims

Reach the New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE (7233), chat with their advocates or text LOVEIS to 22522.

It takes only a small amount of pressure around the neck.

In less than a minute, a strangulation victim may lose consciousness.

The ones who survive in the midst of their lives are able to suffer long-term, life-threatening injuries.

Victims of non-fatal strangulation are at a greater risk of being assaulted once more by their abuser and seven times more likely to become homicide victims than domestic violence victims who are not chomped.

The number of domestic violence cases that the county prosecutor uses in the past year increased to 626, from 557 to 626, bringing more than one in six of them to trial accused of strangulation in 2021.

Facts and statistics like these, as well as a move in New Jersey last year to tighten penalties for domestic violence strangulation assault, have forced this prosecutor to make a new effort.

To provide immediate assistance and protection for victims, the prosecutor's office has created a Domestic Violence Strangulation Response Team, comprised of forensic nurses, law enforcement, victim advocates, and staff at local hospitals.

The prosecutor will be given the most comprehensive evidence to proceed with prosecution.

We believe this will be a response process focused on hospital ER reports of strangulation injuries, because cases involving a non-fatal strangulation attempt are indicative of intense anger and right on the edge of being a homicide, explained the Chief of Detectives John Gilbert.

In a training session held by the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, nursing and law enforcement personnel testified.

For future violence, the blue flag

If victims do not go to the police, they may be reluctant to pursue a restraining order or cooperate with the prosecution.

Many more crimes have been reported in the pandemic, as victims were forced to shelter with their abusers and contact with the outside world was limited in 2020, when many stay-at-home orders were introduced.

According to the GCPO, one in four women will experience intimate partner violence during their lifetime, and 68 percent of women at high risk will experience near-fatal strangulation by their partner.

According to Eileen Caraker, a licensed medical nurse coordinator for the GCPO, the assault is a red flag for planning future domestic violence homicides.

Estiate strangulation is a leading indicator of escalating violence in a relationship, and is also a crucial risk factor for homicide in women, she said.

To combat domestic violence strangulation assault, the judge has decided to reduce it to a third-degree crime if it is punished by up to 10 years in prison or a $150,000 fine.

Eileen Caraker is the forensic nurse coordinator at the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office.

It's really different violence, says the police.

The Domestic Violence Strangulation Response Team, created by a federal Violence Against Women Act grant, is based on the training forensic nurses have already received through SART to identify evidence of strangulation.

forensic nurses will document what happened, both through collecting physical evidence and speaking with patients, and victim advocates will be on hand to explain the options that someone may be able to remove themselves from a dangerous situation.

Caraker said the victims are taking a long time to make those choices to get away or make a plan to get away. This is because we know that lethality is really high, and that person is 750% more likely to be a victim of homicide if they remain with the victim."

Education is essential for overcoming misconceptions about non-fatal strangulation, Caraker said. A victim who briefly passed out may feel fine, but they may have damage that is not readily apparent, she said, he notes.

We always want to make the point that just because someone doesnt have an injury externally on their skin doesnt mean it isnt as important, Caraker said. In this context, well be aware that bruising is not less of a crime.

The signs of hoarseness/sore throat, not being able to swallow, shortness of breath, and memory issues are among the most common.

"We're trying to educate them that this really is different, and that it's really different violence," Caraker said. This act does not go without long-term injury, just like a football player with a traumatic brain injury. If we deprive oxygen to the brain, there's going to be some injury to that brain.

Pressure around the neck - such as someone squeezing their forearm around a victim's neck or placing a pillow over someone's face - can cause a tear in the carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain.

A nick in the carotid artery might then later lead to a stroke, she said. I dont think people realize that the act of doing that to the neck is so dangerous.

According to a survey from the The Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, about 50% of strangulation assaults prevent visible bleeding.

The new initiative, which was officially launched this month, is educating police officers about what to ask and what signs to look for when responding to a home. They are often the first to contact a victim who may initially deny anything happened, according to Caraker.

The prosecutor's office has signed agreements with hospital providers Inspira Health and Jefferson Health, which allow patients to be treated and assessed.

On-call forensic nurses conduct a head-to-toe examination and utilize alternative light sources to look for bruising evidence and special cameras to document injuries. These nurses also interview victims to share a detailed breakdown of their experiences.

Caraker says the nurses are able to testify in court, given a medical exemption to hearsay evidence.

We can talk to the patients telling me about the sensations, she said. How did they feel? How did it hurt? All of the details can come out in court with the nurse's testimony.

The victims have been stranded in the aftermath of a pandemic.

Gloucester isnt the only county in the world to have rapid response teams for domestic violence strangulation.

Monmouth initiated a similar program in 2019 and Ocean began one in October of last year. In addition to Gloucester, four other counties, including Cape May, Middlesex, Hudson, and Somerset, plan to begin these programs this year.

Officials from Inspira Health and Jefferson Health have expressed their support for this new initiative in Gloucester County.

We are still concerned that COVID-19 has reduced the reporting of domestic violence incidents, Inspira Health CEO Amy Mansue said in a statement. We are grateful to Prosecutor Hoffman for leading the creation of a dedicated team to aid domestic violence victims. This will help them and their families recover lives.

Brian Sweeney, the president and CEO of Jefferson Health, has agreed to accept the situation.

We sincerely support the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office in this effort, said Sweeney. We will work closely with its team to provide specialized care and assistance to these victims of domestic violence.

Mansue's concerns about cases that haven't been reported due to the pandemic are shared by Caraker.

COVID has done more than anything in preventing people from reporting or being seen if they have an injury.

While she acknowledges the need to keep victims accountable and seek assistance, she hopes the new response team and more learning will make a difference. The goal is to educate patients about the damage they could suffer and to inform them of their options such as restraining orders and protective housing so they understand they are not trapped.

Many times, they're just not even ready to talk of it, theyre afraid. There's children in common... There's all these things that make someone really slow down to think about that, she said.

Victims may make multiple trips to an emergency room before they are ready to admit they are being abused, according to Caraker.

When a victim is willing to divulge, we have to be available with services, and it must be more of a team effort.

Caraker describes an abuse victim she knows who has declined past efforts to get her assistance, but which may change the corner.

This time it feels different, she said. It feels like shes really prepared to go ahead. What will happen in the end I dont know, but shes moving in the direction of getting away.

Victims of recent domestic violence should call their nearest emergency services for immediate assistance, according to Caraker. Counseling in Gloucester County is available at 856-964-7378

Each New Jersey county has a, according to the woman. Additional assistance is available from the.

The Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, led by Joe Berner, an instructor and supervising crime scene expert, has served as his "students," including nurses and law enforcement personnel, in searching for clues and taking notes.(Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention)

Please subscribe to.

Matt Gray may be reached at the.

You may also like: