Sexual Assault and Strangulation

It’s critical for survivors to get medical care if there’s a potential risk that they’ve been strangled.

Strangulation is the external application of physical force that inhibits air or blood flow to/from the brain. The resulting trauma and brain oxygen deprivation can impact the survivor’s ability to remember what happened (Fineman and Green, 2020).

It is estimated that more than half of survivors of strangulation will not have any physical signs of injury such as bruising. A survivor without visible external injury can die from strangulation days or weeks after the assault as a result of the brain damage caused by the lack of oxygen (Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, n.d.). 

Survivors should access emergency medical treatment if they have any of the following symptoms that could be related to strangulation:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Neck swelling
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness or voice changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Continuous or severe headaches
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Persistent cough


Regardless of whether a survivor has any of these strangulation symptoms, it may be helpful to be assessed by a healthcare professional to ensure they don’t have any life-threatening injuries. Survivors can experience serious or fatal internal injuries with delayed symptoms even if they look unharmed or say they’re not hurt (Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, n.d.).

Access the links below for more information:

Five Myths About Strangulation

Strangulation Assessment Card

Questions? Contact our Community Coordination for Survivor Safety (CCSS) team at

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