Alanna Busby and Lisa Chauncey

Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center’s Alanna Busby, RN, (left) and Hope Unlimited’s Lisa Chauncey are members of the area Sexual Assault Response Team.                                                   

MATT RESNICK 

Strangulation is one of the most sinister acts that can be perpetrated on a domestic assault victim.  

Sexual assault advocate Lisa Chauncey and Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center sexual assault nurse examiner Alanna Busby recently took a class that examined the act of domestic assault strangulation. Chauncey, of Iola-based Hope Unlimited, responds to crisis calls for surrounding hospitals, and through that relationship has worked closely with Busby.

After several cases of strangulation caught their attention, Chauncey and Busby enrolled in a one-day online workshop through the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention. They now want to spotlight this violent act. 

“Our goal is to enhance the knowledge and understanding of professionals working with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who have been strangled, and raise awareness in our communities,” Chauncey said. 

Those who inflict the act of strangulation during domestic assault are often categorized as a more dangerous type of offender, according to Chauncey. 

“It’s an offender who is liable to strike out at other people, including law enforcement,” Chauncey said, with Busby also noting that children are more likely to be in harm’s way around those culprits. “And they’re more apt to (later) bring a gun into a domestic situation.” 

Chauncey added that strangulation is often a go-to tactic of abusers, as opposed to a one-time event. 

“It’s so much more lethal,” Chauncey said. “We need to do everything we can, including taking that person to jail and being sure they don’t have access to the victim.”

Strangulation, in general, is a gender-based crime, with men most often as the aggressors. Busby was told by the class instructor, a former prosecutor, that he refers to these types of individuals as “being on the edge of a homicide.” 

“A survivor of strangulation is up to 1,000 percent more likely to be killed by the same person who strangled them, (but) with a gun,” Busby said of information gleaned from the class. “So those people are so much more likely to have some other type of violence perpetrated against them.” 

Busby said that many times a victim will show no visible signs of strangulation. 

“Only 15 percent of people who are strangled are going to have anything (visible) that you’re going to be able to take a picture of or see long-term,” she said. “Even in fatal cases of strangulation, there may not be a visible injury.” 

Complications from the original injury can arise much further down the road. 

“There’s really serious immediate and long-term consequences,” Busby said. “Death can occur days or weeks afterward. That’s from things like coronary artery dissection, respiratory problems and blood clots. And it can also damage the brain because it’s without oxygen.” 

Chauncey said proper terminology is vital when it comes to this topic, especially with courtrooms and jury pools.

“Lawyers use the wrong term, victims use the wrong term,” Chauncey said, noting that violent strangulation should not be confused with choking. She added that choking can have multiple meanings, such as a scenario involving food. 

“As long as we’re saying ‘he choked me,’ we don’t get that realistic picture of what it is to be eye to eye with someone who’s squeezing the life out of you,” Chauncey said. “So we need to change the language we use to ‘strangulation.’” 

Busby said that she’s seen a steady increase of domestic assault cases as of late. 

“During that acute part of the pandemic, I didn’t see nearly as many people,” she said. “And as it has gone on, I feel like I have seen a lot more people than I did even previous to that.”

Busby said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it easier for abusers to isolate their victims. 

“Because no one is checking up on them, and it’s definitely harder for them to get services,” she said. 

 

SART TEAM 

Busby is a coordinator for the area’s Sexual Assault Response Team. SART is a group composed primarily of area medical and legal professionals and law enforcement officers who share resources and cross-train with each other on a quarterly basis. Chauncey, also a member of the group, said SART members are dedicated to unearthing all available resources for domestic assault victims. 

“We provide that continuity and support for the victim,” Chauncey said. 

Chancey noted that SART can help victims more easily cut through the red tape. 

“Survivors have to navigate their way through governmental and community agencies,” she said. “SART helps survivors access community and area resources that may be available to them, and uses the experience of survivors to improve the services. They’re pretty rare in rural Kansas, and we’re very grateful and lucky to have SART.” 

SART also looks to hold alleged suspects accountable. Chauncey said topics of discussion range from upcoming workshops and training pieces to pending and completed domestic assault cases. Chauncey and Busby also plan on sharing details of the strangulation seminar at the upcoming January meeting. 

“We want to broaden that education to other SART members,” Chauncey said. “We’re constantly looking at our (team) and saying ‘Where are the gaps? What do we need and how can we do things differently?’” 

The group is always looking to expand. Service areas include Neosho, Allen, Anderson and Woodson counties. In addition to sexual assault response, Hope Unlimited offers support groups and on-site therapists, as well as 24-hour crisis intervention services, all free of charge. They also have an emergency shelter, and offer outreach and child advocacy services.

“When victims show up at the hospital, we tell them that there is a team of people working on their behalf,” Chauncey said, adding that victims often experience severe isolation. “You stay close to that family, and we’re involved until they tell us they don’t need us anymore.” 

 

 

Recommended for you

Load comments