County responds to new law change making strangulation a felony

From: Gari Johnson, Clackamas County Public and Government Affairs, 503-742-4370

Media and Interested Parties

An amended Oregon law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2019 will increase the crime of strangulation during domestic violence to a felony. The crime of strangulation is generally a misdemeanor in Oregon and is only a felony under specific circumstances. 

Clackamas County’s leaders, lawmakers and advocates see this change as long overdue.

“Domestic violence involving strangulation is always life-threatening and when a victim survives forever life-altering,” said Clackamas County Commissioner Sonya Fischer. “This important law change elevates strangulation to dangerous assault against those whose physical and emotional health are forever affected by someone they live with and once trusted.” 

Clackamas County’s goal to Ensure Safe, Healthy and Secure Communities includes ending domestic violence related homicides in Clackamas County. Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person to control another in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, economic and/or verbal or emotional abuse.

Victim advocates locally and nationwide are pushing to close loopholes in assault laws. Under the newly revised law, a person commits the crime of strangulation if the person knowingly attempts to stop the normal breathing or blood flow of another person by doing ANY of the following:

  1. Applying pressure on the throat or neck of the other person
  2. Blocking the nose or mouth of the other person
  3. Applying pressure to the chest of the other person (NEW)

Strangulation can be lethal to the victim with unconsciousness occurring within seconds and death within minutes. When a victim of strangulation survives, they experience lasting physical, emotional and psychological damages explained Clackamas County’s expert on domestic violence and strangulation.

“We have a public health emergency – one in four women experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. More than half of domestic violence victims report being strangled, and an even higher percentage of women escaping to domestic violence shelters reported being strangled,” said Sarah Van Dyke, Clackamas County’s Domestic Violence Systems Coordinator. “Data shows that many victims of a domestic violence homicide had experienced non-lethal strangulation within the year prior to their murder. We also know those who strangle are more likely to kill police officers.”

Earlier this year, a dedicated multi-disciplinary group of professionals formed the Clackamas County Strangulation Response Initiative. This group trained in strangulation crimes represents the District Attorney’s Office, local hospitals, law enforcement agencies, Clackamas Women’s Services, Victims Assistance, Parole and Probation. They also developed protocols to improve the detection, documentation, and response to cases of domestic violence strangulation, as well as increase the accountability of offenders. Additionally, they prioritize education and training of law enforcement, dispatch, advocates, the courts, medical personnel, and others.

See Sarah Van Dyke’s presentation on Strangulation and Domestic Violence: Invisible Wounds.

A Safe Place Family Justice Center in Clackamas County has been helping individuals and families by providing support and safety planning for anyone experiencing family violence, sexual violence, stalking, or abuse against older adults and people with disabilities. To learn more about A Safe Place, go to https://www.asafeplacefjc.org/.
The current law concerning strangulation is available at the Oregon Law website. Read Oregon Senate Bill 1562 that amends the law.

Additional Resources

If you or someone you know is in danger, call 9-1-1
Clackamas Women’s Services 24-hour crisis line 503-654-2288

For more information, members of the media and public may contact Gari Johnson at gjohnson2@clackamas.us or 503-742-4370.