In the past few weeks, I have read and heard stories in both print and television media reporting on domestic violence cases where a perpetrator is accused of “choking” his victim.

We in the public safety and domestic violence advocacy fields have been striving for some time to recognize and establish strangulation as the heinous and lethal act it truly is.

A significant piece of this effort is getting everyone to use the more proper and accurate description of the act as “strangulation,” not “choking.”

Choking is more commonly associated with an object inside one’s throat obstructing the ability to swallow. Strangulation is defined under Maine statutes as “the intentional impeding of the breathing or circulation of the blood of another person by applying pressure on the person’s throat or neck.”

The word “choking” does not appear in Maine criminal statutes, and the continued use of the word by the public and media is perpetuating the use of a slang expression that is not an accurate reflection of the facts, nature or severity of the crime.

Two years ago, the Maine Legislature recognized the lethality and frequent use of strangulation in domestic violence cases and amended the assault laws to allow perpetrators to be charged with a felony when strangulation is alleged to have occurred during the assault.


Granted, many people, including those who have fallen victim to this offense, commonly refer to it as “choking.” But given the severity of this offense, it would serve the media outlets as well as victims of this crime to research and report accurate information on cases of domestic violence.

Steven Edmondson

domestic violence investigator,

Sagadahoc County District Attorney’s Office




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