SERGEANT David Beattie, Eastern Bay of Plenty Area Family Harm Prevention Manager for the New Zealand Police

SINCE new family law legislation was introduced in 2018, the Whakatane district has seen two strangulations each month.

After British tourist Grace Millaine was strangled to death in December by a 27-year-old man she met on the dating app Tinder – a man who was last month found guilty and convicted of her murder – the subject of strangulation is something to be addressed. When legislation was introduced, it was recognised that the offence needed to stand alone from other types of offending.

Senior Sergeant David Beattie, the Eastern Bay of Plenty family harm prevention manager, said the unique thing about strangulation, was that someone was presenting a real threat to another person’s life.

“It includes any method of restricting one’s breathing. It can involve hands, a pillow, a plastic bag or sitting on the victim’s chest,” he said.

Mr Beattie has spent 11 years helping women who experience domestic violence. “I have personally read over 15,000 reports of family harm and have spoken face-to-face with many victims of this offending. The common theme is that most survivors didn’t realise how close they were to death, simply because they lived,” he said.

Mr Beattie said some of the symptoms of strangulation were loss of bowel control and miscarriage.

“Death by strangulation can take less than a minute.

“After 50 seconds of oxygen deprivation due to continuous strangulation, victims rarely recover – reflexes become inoperative and resuscitation requires emergency medical intervention,” he said.

Battered Woman’s Syndrome

ON average, a woman will leave her partner seven times before they finally go. A victim can suffer from battered woman’s syndrome after prolonged abuse and can develop a helplessness that causes her to believe she deserves the abuse.

The first stage of battered woman’s syndrome is denial. The victim can’t accept that she’s being abused.

Mr Beattie said minimising the behaviour was a common theme among victims.

The second phase for a victim of family or domestic violence is guilt – she believes she has caused the abuse. The victim eventually realises that she didn’t deserve the abuse and acknowledges that her partner has an abusive personality.

The final phase, the most dangerous time for any victim of abuse and violence in an intimate relationship, is when she chooses to leave or get out of the relationship.

The abuser will somehow try to regain control of his victim and stop her from leaving. In some cases, the consequences for some victims can be catastrophic and fatal.

Mr Beattie said if you survived, you should take heed.

“The man that says he cares about you, is toying with the idea of taking your life and you need to get out of the relationship fast because the next time it happens might be your murder,” he said.

Power and control – look for the signs

INTIMIDATION is one of the first signs of power and control, and the first sign a woman should get out of her relationship.

It can begin with a look, an action or a gesture which sends a strong message to the victim instilling fear in her.

Power and control are used by the abuser to exert power of his victim. In a relationship, it can produce a primary aggressor and the feeling of being controlled.

Mr Beattie said strangulation was about power.

“It says to the victim – I can kill you if I want to, I don’t need a knife or gun, I am in charge and your life is in my hands.

“The difference between life and death for these victims is just a matter of seconds,” he said.

Mr Beattie said it took a special kind of person to strangle his partner.

“It’s a stepping stone to murder,” he said.

Where to get help:

  • Women’s Refuge: (0800 733 843)
  • It’s Not OK (0800 456 450)
  • Shine: 0508 744 633
  • (0800 842 846)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.