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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Justice Dept. employing new prevention tool to address strangulation cases

Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández

By John McPhaul

The island Department of Justice on Tuesday incorporated a new tool in the protocols of the investigations carried out by the specialized units of domestic violence, sexual crimes and child abuse, through an agreement with the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention (TISP).

Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández announced in a written statement that “this instrument, which is novel in Puerto Rico and has proven to be valuable in other jurisdictions, will allow the Department’s prosecutors to identify the profiles of potential murderers and reinforce criminal prosecution in cases where the victim alleges that she has been strangled.

Women who experience non-fatal strangulation by their partner are 700 times more likely to be victims of femicide, according to studies published by the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health and used by the TISP.

The initiative arose as part of the search for specialized training for prosecutors who deal with cases of gender violence and violent crimes. To ensure its coordinated implementation, the Justice secretary on May 3 signed a memorandum of understanding between the department and the TISP, which belongs to the organization Alliance for Hope International, recognized for its long history in the United States strengthening survivors of violence and training medical personnel, police officers, legal professionals, and crime victims’ rights advocates in the proper handling of non-fatal strangulation cases.

“We have trained the prosecutors of all the specialized units of Domestic Violence, Sexual Crimes and Child Abuse and the district attorneys of the Department of Justice on an instrument, created and reviewed by forensic experts from different areas of criminal investigation, which will be integrated into the research methodology in order to obtain valuable and pertinent evidence that will not only allow us to identify the most dangerous aggressors and prevent femicides, but also will help us identify medical services that adequately address the consequences of this type of aggression and thus provide comprehensive guidance to victims on the toll non-fatal strangulation can have on their short- and long-term health,” coordinating prosecutor Laura Hernández Gutierrez said. “In addition, it will allow us to channel the appropriate security measures and services of all kinds that survivors of non-fatal strangulation deserve.”

“Stranglehold is the deadliest form of domestic violence and those who carry it out are the most dangerous aggressors in the world,” said Casey Gwinn, president and co-founder of the Alliance for Hope, citing a study published by Dr. Nancy Glass, associate director of the Alliance for Hope, Johns Hopkins Center of Global Health, and other scholars.

“According to recent studies, it is highly probable that whoever commits strangulation ends up causing the death of the victim; he is a potential murderer,” Hernández Gutiérrez added. “With this mechanism, we will be able to identify it, prosecute it and achieve a punishment proportional to the offense. We will also be able to educate the victims about the dangerous situation they face.”

“This pilot project will also help us collect the evidence specifically required to prove these types of cases and provide the particular services that each victim needs,” she said.

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