Learn to spot the signs of domestic violence, save a life

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It rarely starts with a punch, experts say: it starts with jealousy, according to speakers at Tuesday’s Domestic Violence Abuse Conference at the Radisson Hotel in Rockford.

The conference focused on teaching attendees to recognize the signs of physical abuse, specifically strangulation — abuse that is said to be extremely common among victims.

“The issue, really, is power and control,” said Jennifer Cacciapaglia, Manager of the Mayor’s Office of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention.

City officials continue to work around the clock to raise awareness of domestic violence in Rockford.

“It is the intimate relationship, or familiar relationship, and the methods of power and control that the abuser inflicts on the survivor,” Cacciapaglia continued.

Domestic violence comes in forms not only physical, but verbal, financial and sexual. The physical results are the easiest to recognize.

“Strangulation happens to a lot of the victims of domestic violence and often we don’t recognize it in our medical system, and perhaps we can deal with it better in the legal system, too,” said Circuit Court Judge Rosemary Collins.

To recognize the signs of strangulation, more than just physical marks can be identified.

“We have to be aware that there are other signs besides the outward external signs, strangulation so often leaves internal injuries and we have to start looking for those,” Cacciapaglia said.

Those signs include changes in the victim’s voice, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and even ear pain.

According to Rockford Police, 30 to 35 percent of the city’s violent crime stems from domestic violence, and as more victims learn to identify the signs of it, the expectation is that the number will go up, as more cases will be brought to the department’s attention.

Lieutenant Kurt Whisenand, of the Rockford Police Department, said, “We also know that there’s probably, possibly more incidents being reported to us, because we know still the majority are never reported to the police.”

But, that steady increase in reports is something official say is a good thing, and the purpose of conference like Tuesday’s.

“Hopefully, that’s from us raising awareness in the public to the problem of domestic violence,” Whisenand said.

Today’s conference was called “Strangulation: The Last Warning.” Studies have shown strangulation tends to occur later in an abusive relationship and can represent a higher risk for serious injury, even homicide.

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