Unable to breathe, gasping for breath, and genuinely feeling like their life is going to end. Some victims can't even wear necklaces anymore. But how many people are actually charged with strangulation in the Bay of Plenty? Cira Olivier investigates.
A woman was unconscious for three minutes after the hands of her abuser had been wrapped around her neck.
Tauranga Woman's Refuge manager Maree Saunders said the woman now had cognitive delays, got tired easily and had memory loss as a result. However, she still got up to young children every day while her violent partner remained behind bars.
The refuge told the Bay of Plenty Times this horror story, saying it was something it saw daily: about 90 per cent of victims report having been strangled at some point by an abuser.
About two people were charged every week with strangulation in the Bay of Plenty.
Figures obtained by the Bay Times showed 111 people in the Bay of Plenty were charged with strangulation between December 2018 and September 2019.
Of these, 106 were men and two-thirds were family members of the victim.
The Family Violence (Amendments) Act 2018 made changes to a number of Acts to improve responses to family violence in criminal and civil law. Strangulation or suffocation became a separate criminal offence.
Strangulation is when pressure is applied on or around the neck with enough force to stop someone breathing and starves the brain of oxygen. There can be a loss of consciousness within 20 seconds and death within 5 minutes.
A 2008 study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine found those strangled by a partner or ex-partner were at greater risk of being seriously injured or killed by them in the future.
Saunders said 90 per cent of the women who sought refuge had been strangled.
Some women can't wear necklaces. Others can't wear shirts around their neck. It took them back to the moment they thought their life was over.
Saunders, who dealt with the repercussions of such violence regularly, 111 charges was still not enough.
"Even grabbing someone around the neck and just holding on in an attempt to strangle has a huge effect," Saunders said.
She said this was done to control and scare the victim without leaving evidence. The refuge was seeing it more often.
"They can't breathe, they're gasping for breath and that's that anxiety where they can't fight to get out of it.
"Because the abuser is so strong, it's hard for the women to get their hands away from their throat.
"All the women I've spoken to feel like their life is going to end."
A lot of children in the children's programme said they had seen strangulation at some point, she said.
"They say they've seen Dad's hands around Mum's throat."
December was "a lot busier" than last year, which Saunders said was because of methamphetamine use, financial strains and homelessness.
"Strangulation needs to be a top priority." Te Tuinga Whanau director Tommy Wilson said strangulation needed to be taken seriously.
"It's the most vulnerable place to attack a person. Strangulation is right up there, second to a gun or a knife," he said.
"It's a quick result for someone that wants to exact ultimate violence."
He said there was a correlation between rising family violence and the worsening methamphetamine epidemic. methamphetamine or alcohol abuse were the cause of the stress in the relationship.
"Drugs, alcohol and mental health do play a significant part in family harm. Often there are children involved."
There were 13,219 family investigations in the Bay of Plenty last year - nearly 1000 more than the previous year and about 483 more than in 2016.
Of these investigations, 2213 cases went to court, which is the highest number of family harm prosecutions of any region in the country and an average of six a day.
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