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Experts stress seriousness of strangulation

Local police officers and prosecutors met today to discuss something that seems pretty obvious, strangulation is a very serious crime.

But national research has found that too often strangulation is missed or dismissed by investigators.

Domestic violence prosecutor Gael Strack of San Diego began the conference by playing some recordings of 9-11 calls from unidentified cities. In one call, a woman struggles for breath after saying she was choked. The next call was even more chilling.. A woman told the dispatcher she was choked by her boyfriend. A dispatcher dismissed the strangulation as asthma as she relayed the information to a male paramedic.

The experts say the tapes symbolize the problem. Officers, prosecutors, even victim advocates sometimes fail to appreciate the seriousness of strangulation. San Diego emergency room Dr. George McClane says strangulation is as terrifying as an assault with a knife or gun.

Dr. McClane says sometimes signs of strangulation can be difficult to spot but even with no marks, it can be deadly. The experts urged investigators to always ask victims if they have been strangled, look carefully for marks, and take clear, close-up pictures of injuries to show a judge or jury.

Another tip, replace the term choking with strangling. Too often, the experts say, choking is dismissed as if the victim got something stuck in her throat. When officers use the word strangle in their reports, the violence is clear.

The conference was organized by the Columbus City Attorney's office. City attorney Richard Pheiffer says 40% of the domestic violence cases his office prosecutes involve strangulation.