San Diego launches new effort to protect domestic violence victims

Posted at 7:14 PM, Feb 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-02 22:14:03-05
SAN DIEGO - A brutal crime that could lead to deadly consequences. Now,  the San Diego County District Attorney's Office wants to toughen up on domestic violence.
"I did not know that I was being a victim of strangulation,"  said Mariel. She chose not give out her last name for safety concerns.
Mariel said she was in an abusive marriage for more than 10 years. 
"He was so mad and he reached me and hold me and basically against the wall," she said.
It stories like Mariel's that are inspiring the District Attorney's Office and law enforcement agencies to follow the "Strangulation Protocol."
They are a new set of guidelines to ask better, more detailed questions.
"Were there changes in voice? Were there changes in vision? Is there a hoarseness to the voice that didn't happen before?," said Deputy District Attorney,Tracy Prior.
The DA said between 2008 and 2015, 15 percent of domestic violence homicides in San Diego county were caused by strangulation.
Family violence prevention professionals, prosecutors, law enforcement leaders, medical professionals and advocates met for six months to formalize the protocol, which is designed to ensure detection of choking victims and prevent them from later becoming homicide victims.
Just last month, prosecutors said Oceanside resident, Melissa Contreras was strangled by the father of her kids.
"Domestic violence is still one of the most underreported crimes. There is, obviously, so much shame, embarrassment, fear that comes with a victim having the courage to come forward and report," said Prior.
Now, the county wants to crack down on abuse - before it is too late. A training video will teach law enforcement basic information on choking and strangulation, such as the small amount of pressure it takes to cause significant damage. For example, an adult can be rendered unconscious in five to 10 seconds with 11 pounds per square inch of consistent pressure.
The protocol includes a revised Domestic Violence Supplemental form that every patrol officer in the field completes with an additional question about choking.
They are also airing a public service announcement, hoping victims come forward and report their abuse.
Mariel said she, too, wants victims to reach out for help.
"Thanks to law enforcement and all these programs, it's been like a second chance for us," she said.
To report abuse, you can call 1-800-DVLINKS.