A bill sponsored by State Rep. Mandi Ballinger, Canton's freshman legislator, that makes strangulation a felony offense has been signed off by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Deal recently signed into law House Bill 911, which adds language to the existing aggravated assault statute to make strangulation a felony offense.
“I would like to thank the many people who have worked on this crucial piece of legislation and to Governor Deal for his support in signing this into law,” Ballinger said. “H.B. 911 will allow prosecutors to seek harsher sentences for the abusers, and will help to reduce the number of domestic violence cases in Georgia. It is my hope that this law will bring justice for domestic abuse victims in our state.”
The governor signed the bill on April 23, at a ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol. The bill, which goes into effect on July 1, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate during the 2014 legislative session.
It also had the support of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Georgia Association of Solicitors-General, District Attorneys’ Association of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. Georgia is the 38th state to adopt legislation similar to HB 911.
“Making strangulation assault a felony will save lives in Georgia,” said Greg Loughlin, executive director of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. “We also want to raise public awareness about the dangers of strangulation and how to help, including the signs to alert you to advise immediate medical attention. When a person puts their hands around someone’s neck, only bad things can happen.”
According to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, a recent survey found that over 44 percent of victims served by Georgia’s state-certified domestic violence programs have been strangled.
Also, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence asserts that strangulation victims are eight times more likely to be killed by the same abuser. The Violence Policy Center currently ranks Georgia as the 12th worst state in the nation for the rate of women killed by men.
Strangulation is a highly dangerous form of assault used by abusers. According to the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, four pounds of pressure can stop the blood flood through the victim’s brain, potentially leading to brain damage, unconsciousness and death. Lasting physical ailments of strangulation include headaches, neck pain, memory loss and strokes. Psychologically, strangulation can also reinforce an abuser’s control over the victim.
"Victims who survive a strangulation assault frequently describe it as a near-death experience,” says Jan Christiansen, Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "It’s an abuser’s way of letting a victim know, ‘I could kill you if I wanted to.’ It’s a powerful way of making a victim feel trapped."
Victims of domestic abuse can contact Georgia’s 24-hour statewide domestic violence hotline at 1-800-334-2836. Advocates at Georgia’s 46 state-certified domestic violence programs are available to help victims plan for their safety and learn about community services.