Metro Atlanta community, first responders train to help strangulation victims

Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 5:53 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - DeKalb County is trying to make sure first responders in metro Atlanta are equipped to not only help strangulation victims but also identify them.

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office hosted a training session that also included first responders and criminal justice partners from Dekalb and other nearby counties.

“One of the great myths about strangulation is that it’s not that serious,” said Gerald Fineman.

Fineman is the co-chair of the legal committee for the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention.

He says people don’t realize just how dangerous strangulation is and that it often leads to death.

“If you’re strangled even one time it increases your risk of being a victim of a homicide by that perpetrator 750%,” said Fineman.

It’s a number that has the attention of local law enforcement, including Sgt. Philip Lopez with the Special Victims Unit with DeKalb County Police Department.

He was one of several first responders being trained on how to look for signs that someone has been strangled when they arrive at a scene.

“You may have to sit there with them and sort of work with them to encourage them to get that information out,” said Sgt. Lopez

That information comes from asking the right types of questions, especially because the physical markers of strangulation are often difficult for first responders to see.

“One of the things we’re learning is that some of these external injuries may not show up at all, it may be 48 to 72 hours, it may be something that happens months later,” said Sgt. Lopez.

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s office says this is an issue that deserves more attention from everyone, not just law enforcement.

“If we want to make a change in the amount of domestic violence-related fatalities here in Dekalb County, we got to pay closer attention to strangulation cases,” said Jennifer Stolarski, Chief of Staff and Chief Assistant District Attorney in the Dekalb County District Attorney’s Office.