Strangling language: Perrysburg Twp. detective on a mission to change domestic violence crime to a felony

LIME CITY — The Perrysburg Township Police Department is on the front lines in working toward a change to
the state criminal law making strangulation in domestic violence cases a felony.
“Ohio is now one of two states left in the United States that does not have a strangulation law added to
their domestic violence offenses,” said Det. Todd Curtis.
Legislation has passed the Ohio House and is working its way through the Senate, as Senate Bill 146, that
would make strangulation, or suffocation, in a domestic violence case, a third-degree felony. Township
trustees are giving the department a formal letter of support for their legislative activities.
Curtis is trying to have strangulation made a felony, because of the substantial risk of death; 10% of
all violent deaths in the United States come from strangulation.
“Frankly, when we talk about felonious assault in the state of Ohio, everybody thinks of guns, knives,
beatings with bats, running someone over with a car — the gory stuff that involves weapons. When you
show a picture of someone with faint red marks around the neck — because the blood vessels burst on the
inside — they don’t see that or correlate that with a life-threatening assault,” Curtis said. “We don’t
see strangulation in cases of road rage, or fights in bars. It’s a tactic that’s being used in domestic
violence situations.”
Curtis teaches law enforcement officers classes in victim-less prosecution for domestic violence cases.

“Basically, we had a lot of victims of domestic violence recant or fail to show up when it came time for
court,” Curtis said. “In the past, we had the unfortunate situation where these cases were dismissed
with no prosecution. The reason they were recanting, or failing to show up to testify. is because they
were intimidated, coerced or threatened.”
Curtis has specialized forensic training on the symptoms, signs and evidence of assaults from
Since 2009 the department has been trying to use evidence-based prosecution to make the cases more solid
for court. It allows the case to move forward, if the victim recants, or does not otherwise testify.
In those cases, it was often found that strangulation was being used as a control tactic. It takes
between 8 and 14 seconds to become unconscious from strangulation and it makes the most damage on the
inside of the neck, without immediately showing marks. This meant photos taken immediately after the
incident were not helpful in the case.
“Everybody bruises differently,” Curtis said.
He now uses photos and makes contact with victims in a window of time between 48 and 72 hours.
Immediately after this type of assault the victim will often not remember what happened, but the memory
will also return in that time frame.
He compared different instances of strangulation.
“When you think about strangulation, it is the act of cutting off blood flow or oxygen to the brain, two
vital components needed to survive,” Curtis said. “When we don’t have the (later photo) evidence, they
are charged with misdemeanors.”
He said if it happens to a police officer in the performance of their duties, they are allowed to use
“deadly force” in defense. For domestic violence cases the penalty would be a misdemeanor.
Over the 20 years Curtis has been an officer he has found strangulation used at an increasing rate.
He thinks part of the reason is because of the increasing number of websites that talk about and teach
methods of strangulation as a method of forcing compliance in domestic situations.
“Domestic violence is about intimidation and I can’t think of anything more intimidating that
strangulation,” Trustee Gary Britten said.