The bill, aptly named 911, mandates that strangulation is always charged as a felony, allowing authorities to take a firmer stand against the crime that domestic violence experts say is a prevalent tool used by abusers.
“HB 911 will allow prosecutors to seek harsher sentences for the abusers, and will help to reduce the number of domestic violence cases in Georgia,” Ballinger, a former victim’s advocate in the judicial system, said in a news release. “It is my hope that this law will bring justice for domestic abuse victims in our state.”
Deal signed the bill into law April 23 during a ceremony at the Capitol. The legislation made it to the governor’s desk after passing both the House and Senate unanimously.
The bill, which Ballinger called a “crucial piece of legislation,” also received wide support from anti-domestic violence groups and authorities. Those supporters included the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Georgia Association of Solicitors-General, District Attorneys’ Association of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Making strangulation assault a felony will save lives in Georgia,” said Greg Loughlin, executive director of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, in the news release. “We also want to raise public awareness about the dangers of strangulation and how to help, including the signs to alert you to advise immediate medical attention. When a person puts their hands around someone’s neck, only bad things can happen.”
A study cited by Loughlin’s group found that more than 44 percent of victims who receive support from Georgia’s state-certified domestic violence programs have been strangled before. The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates strangulation victims are eight times more likely to be killed by the person who strangled them.
“Victims who survive a strangulation assault frequently describe it as a near-death experience,” said Jan Christiansen, Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the news release. “It’s an abuser’s way of letting a victim know, ‘I could kill you if I wanted to.’ It’s a powerful way of making a victim feel trapped.”