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Just one of the thousands of problems women face

Northeastern State University's Student Center Ballroom is filled with over 200 law enforcement officers, judges, advocates and more. President and Co-Founder of Alliance for HOPE International, Casey Gwinn speaks at the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention.

They say the first step in fixing a problem is recognizing there is one. Some problems can be hidden for a while before being recognized, others are in plain sight yet seem to take longer to be recognized. One problem women are facing is strangulation by their partner.

“Strangulation has been identified as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence,” said Casey Gwinn, President and Co-Founder of Alliance for HOPE International.

Often times, there is no external evidence of injury after a victim is strangled which may cause a victim to forgo medical treatment.

“Even though there are no external injuries when a person is strangled it can still cause major internal injuries, which can have long-term effects,” said Chandra Hudson, Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator in Adair County. “Most people deal with what they see, unlikely with what they cannot see, especially victims.”

In 1995 two young women, Casondra Stewart and Tamara Smith were killed due to strangulation. Their cases caught the eye of San Diego City Attorney, Casey Gwinn.

Casey Gwinn, also known by The American Lawyer as one of the top 45 public lawyers in America, founded City Attorney’s Child Abuse and Domestic Violence unit and lead those units from 1986 to 1996. From 1996 to 2004, he served as the elected City Attorney of San Diego.

In 2003, President George W. Bush asked Gwinn to provide leadership for a national initiative to creating Family Justice Centers.

“There’s a better way to help people who need help in our society”, said President George W. Bush in 2003. “San Diego figured it out, they’ve got a City Attorney named Casey Gwinn, who recognized that there is a more compassionate way to help people that have been abused.”

Gwinn currently serves as the President and Co-Founder of Alliance for HOPE International and travels the country educating communities. One of Gwinn’s great personal passion is Camp HOPE America. The camp is the first specialized camp to be centered on children exposed to domestic violence and child abuse. Camp HOPE is continuing to grow across the nation. Another one of Gwinn’s accomplishments is the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention.

In 2011, Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention was launched and has since served Intimate Partner Violence Strangulation Crimes training and services across the nation. These trainings have helped over 5,000 professionals per year have a better understanding and knowledge on domestic violence and sexual assault strangulation crimes.

“I have talked with my officers that attended,” said Heather Bryan, court advocate. “They stated he would like to send everyone in his department to Casey’s training. This class was a real eye opener and very informative.”

Because of these services, over 30 states have passed strangulation felony laws. Oklahoma is one of those states. What is it going to take for all 50 states to have these same laws?

“I think we still have to keep getting information out there,” said Gwinn. “The public doesn’t understand this; they don’t realize how serious it is.”

Gwinn said getting the information out there and getting the public educated will reduce murders in America.

“They don’t realize that these guys are the killers, men who put their hands around a woman’s neck,” said Gwinn. “If you want to talk about how to reduce murders in America, you have to stop men who strangle women. That is homicide prevention.”

Strangulation is the obstruction of blood vessels and/or airflow in the neck resulting in asphyxia. The consequences of strangulation are serious. According to the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention’s website, it only takes as much as thirty-three pounds of pressure to completely close off the trachea. Within five to ten seconds of being strangled, a person can lose consciousness and after five minutes, death can occur. Injuries such as; physical, psychological, neurological and delayed fatality are lasting effects from this crime.

The following statistics were prepared by the National Family Justice Center Alliance; 97 percent of strangulation attempts involve blunt force trauma, 79 percent are strangled manually, 38 percent report losing consciousness and 13 percent are strangled along with sexual assault/abuse. Probability for homicide is increased seven times for victims who have been strangled.

On March 8, over 200 judges, law enforcement and health professions, attorneys and community guests gathered together for the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention. Tahlequah’s Help-In-Crisis sponsored the event and volunteer coordinator, Kendra Sweet said she plans to utilize what she learned toward her passion in her work.

“As advocates for victims of Domestic Violence and sexual assault we will utilize the information we have learned to better support and inform our clients and those we work side to side with. Our 24-hour hotline training includes a portion on strangulation so that all of our advocates are informed and can provide our clients with the most up to date information geared toward achieving safety and peace on their journey.”

The eight-hour training was beneficial for all attendees. Whether it was an officer, instructor, court advocate or student. The understanding and knowledge of what to look for and how to stop it.

“I liked it because I was able to take it back to the schools and teach it to my seventh and eighth graders and nine through twelve”, said Hudson. “Teach it to the students and help prevent younger students how dangerous it is to choke their friends out for fun and understand the ramifications and the consequences to what their actions may be as they turn into adults.”

Sweet said Help-In-Crisis has future plans with Casey Gwinn to ensure they are always up-to-date with information keeping clients and the community aware of the severity of strangulation.

“We have two staff members who will attend a Training the trainer workshop in San Diego so that our agency can continue to educate and inform those we work with about this public safety matte,” said Sweet.

Help-In-Crisis, Inc. is a non-profit agency that sponsored this event free to the community. Help-In-Crisis, Inc. provides services to families fleeing from domestic or sexual violence. The agency devotes countless hours of advocacy, services and support to victims in Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties. Casey Gwinn continues to have a relationship with the agency and is a sponsor and supporter for their 6th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event on April 16th at Norris Park

For more information, visit the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention’s website at or call Help-In-Crisis, Inc. at 918.456.0673.

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