I am writing in response to “Waterfront Concerts promoter arrested on domestic violence charge” (March 17), whose subtitle states: “Alexander Gray is charged by Portland police after allegedly knocking down his girlfriend, briefly choking her … .”

“Choking” is not the correct word to use when reporting domestic violence incidents. “Strangling” is the accurate term. Distinguishing between the two words is important, and goes beyond quibbling over semantics.

A woman can choke on a piece of a candy. She cannot be choked by her boyfriend.

Choking refers to an internal obstruction of an airway. It is accidental. Strangulation is external and intentional. It is a specific form of abuse – an exertion of power and control over another person.

Strangulation has immediate consequences. An individual who strangles another person demonstrates a willingness to take a victim’s life. Strangulation can render a person unconscious in seconds, cause temporary or permanent brain damage within 30 seconds, and/or result in internal injuries that may become life-threatening within days.

It is a common tactic used by abusers, and usually leaves no obvious physical signs. Non-fatal strangulation can even be a risk factor for eventual homicide. Many states have enacted laws that make strangulation a felony charge.

Domestic violence is a public health problem. It affects individuals in our community of all socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, race, age and religion. Words matter – and in this case, words may be the difference between life and death.

The public needs to be made aware of strangulation as a specific form of abuse so that we all, including those currently experiencing intimate partner violence, understand its lethality. To refer to this act as “choking” is not only inaccurate, it also minimizes this heinous and willful alleged act by a man against his partner.

Tiffany Greco