HAVEN offers class to show warning signs of strangulation abuse

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It's a chilling 911 call: a child calls police as her father tries to strangle her mother. The call is shown in a training video, highlighting the serious threat women and some men face in controlling and abusive relationships.  

At a treatment room at HAVEN in Pontiac, victims of domestic abuse often choose to go there instead of the emergency room. It's not always what you see. Take this as an example.  

"You take your hand and hold it as hard as you can on your wrist for about 15 to 20 seconds and that's all it takes to do damage," said Diane Zalecki Bertalan, a HAVEN RN. "I am talking about brain damage. Cells begin to die. So I'll talk with them for about 15 or 20 seconds and then I let go. And you can see that there is redness, but as we talk that's going to go away."

So what are the signs? Sheriff's deputies who go on calls where they see victims explain what they look for. They are signs you can look for, too.

"We're looking for redness around the neck, swelling, possible veins around the eyes busted and redness around the eyes and it's up to us to work with our medical people in here at HAVEN to get an expert opinion is to make sure it was strangulation," said Capt. Christopher Wundrach, Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

What happens when no one calls 911? Apparent scars won't always be the only tell-tale signs. There are other symptoms, too. Listen to the voice. 

"Sometimes you can hear it in their voice," Bertalan said. "You can hear the raspiness, sometimes they do a lot of coughing so those types of things are things that we look for, and we ask our patients about.

"Very frequently if we don't see anything, we will have them come back several days later and sometimes we will see some of those bruises come forward."

And it's not always in a relationship that's falling apart.  

"You may have children with them," said Bertalan. "You may have lived with them for some length of time and this person is holding you in about arm’s length looking you directly in the eyes and making a decision as to whether not you are taking your next breath."