Non-fatal strangulation is slated to become a criminal offense in England and Wales, carrying a sentence of up to seven years in prison. The expansion of the UK’s cutting edge domestic abuse bill to include non-fatal strangulation will close a gaping legal loophole that has enabled perpetrators of intimate partner abuse and domestic homicide to escape justice – until now.
The initiative to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill and criminalize non-fatal strangulation was led by the Center For Women’s Justice, who met with Justice Secretary and Lord High Chancellor Robert Buckland.
Nogah Ofer, a solicitor at the Centre for Women’s Justice, said, “It is time that as a society we stopped normalizing and ignoring [non-fatal] strangulation.
“The vast majority of these crimes are committed against women,” the Lord Chancellor told the BBC, “They are often a precursor to even more serious violence.”
What is non-fatal strangulation?
Non-fatal strangulation is compression on the neck to seriously obstruct respiration and cause harm, but not death. It is an antecedent to gender-based homicide. The Femicide Census reports that a woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK.
The practice is different from so-called erotic asphyxiation because it is:
- Intended to cause harm and induce fear.
- Occurs in the context of abusive power and control.
Why is non-fatal strangulation a gendered crime?
Non-fatal strangulation affects 10 times as many women as men, making it a gendered form of intimate partner violence.
According to a 2019 report from the Office for National Statistics:
“Around one in six (17%) of female victims were killed by strangulation, asphyxiation, this was the second most common method of killing for female victims. In contrast, a much smaller proportion (3%) of male victims were killed in this way.”
What is femicide?
Femicide is a term that describes the killing of females by males because of their gender. Diana Russell coined the term in 1974. It is the principal cause of premature death for women globally.
Domestic Abuse in the UK in numbers
In 2019, some 2.4 million adults in the UK were targets of domestic abuse:
- 1.6 million women
- 786,000 men
“Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime perpetrated on victims and their families by those who should love and care for them,” says Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding.
The socio-economic cost of domestic abuse in England and Wales is estimated to be a staggering £66 billion.
Women usually experience approximately 50 episodes of intimate partner violence before they report.
- Home Office. (2020, August 17) Domestic Abuse Bill 2020: overarching factsheet. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Evans, Megan L., Lindauer, Margo, Farrell, Maureen E. (2020, December 10) A Pandemic withing a Pandemic – Intimate Partner Violence during Covid-19. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Kelly, June. (2021, January 11) New strangulation law planned to tackle abusers, says justice secretary. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Centre for Women’s Justice. (2021, January 10) New Offence of Non-Fatal Strangulation Welcomed. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Bartha, Emma. (2021, January 11) In domestic abuse crackdown, UK law targets ‘horrendous’ strangling attacks. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Topping, Alexandra. (2021, January 5) Urgent call for new law to tackle non-fatal strangulation in England and Wales. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Topping, Alexandra (2021, January 10) Non-fatal strangulation set to become criminal offence in England and Wales. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Oppenheim, Maya. (2021, January 11) Non-fatal strangulation set to become criminal offence after calls from domestic abuse campaigners. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
Photo by Leighann Blackwood