Rep. Griffey files bipartisan bill to protect sexual assault, domestic violence survivors from non-fatal strangulation

In an effort to strengthen protections for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors, Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, has filed bipartisan legislation to close a gap in the law on non-fatal strangulations.

According to research reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as many as 1 in 10 women will experience non-fatal strangulation by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Non-fatal strangulation has also been identified as a risk factor for lethal partner violence.

Strangulation involves external compression of the victim’s airway and blood vessels, causing reduced air and blood flow to the brain. Victims may show no or minimal external signs of injury despite having life-threatening internal injuries including traumatic brain injury. Injuries may present after the assault or much later and may persist for months and even years post-assault. Victims who are strangled multiple times face a greater risk of traumatic brain injury. 

Under Washington state law, the crime of strangulation is assault in the second degree – a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

“The problem is the abusers committing this horrible act will often claim the victim was a willing participant and the courts accept that,” said Griffey. “This coupled with the fact that there are only minimal – if any physical signs of this crime leave the abuser to continue terrorizing their victim. I am saying no! We must put a stop to this.”

The issue came to light for Griffey last year after he heard from a woman in his district about the harrowing ordeal, she survived by her abusive husband for seven years.

“I won’t share the name of this woman to protect her identity, but over the interim I saw the damage the controlling and abusive relationship she had been in for years had done to her,” said Griffey. “Unfortunately, I also saw her endure the shameless victim blaming that is so common in domestic violence and sexual assault cases when her husband claimed in court, she consented to repeatedly being strangled during sex.”

Griffey’s House Bill 2395 removes the ability of an abuser to claim the victim consented to the act as a defense.

“Right now, those trying to escape domestic violence and domestic violence/sexual assault situations are already behind the eight ball when they get to the court. Our legal system gives more weight to the testimony of others over that of the survivors,” said Griffey.

The bill has bipartisan support.

“As a domestic violence survivor who has been working on domestic violence homicide prevention in the legislature, one of the most glaring facts is the predictive correlation between a prior act of strangulation and future intimate partner homicide,” said Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline. “I am so grateful for my dear friend and colleague across the aisle for his courage, leadership, and advocacy on behalf of survivors like me.”

Domestic violence victims who have been nonfatally strangled are eight times more likely to become a subsequent victim of homicide at the hands of the same abusive partner.

Griffey has been a leader in the Legislature in advocating for sexual assault survivors, including getting a bill passed and signed by the governor in 2019 that ended or extended the statute of limitations for several sex crimes, specifically for those involving children.

“I want to be clear this bill is not about government coming into the bedrooms of the people of Washington state,” said Griffey. “This bill is to protect those in domestic violence or other abusive situations who are subjected to this horrific act as a way for the abuser to feel powerful or to have control over them.”

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov