Domestic violence is impacting thousands of San Diegans every single year, and while the statistics are startling local law enforcement agencies believe the numbers don’t tell the entire story of the under-reported crime.
In 2018 alone, there were 17,000 domestic violence incidents reported in the San Diego County. Michelle Shores, Forensic Health Services specialist for Palomar Health, said her team has performed over 450 domestic assault forensic exams. Almost all of those cases involved a strangulation component.
The District Attorney's Office announced a new campaign Tuesday to help health care professionals better identify victims of domestic violence strangulation.
It’s a hard conversation to dive into for some, but advocates and experts like Shores say it’s absolutely necessary.
“Sometimes we come to work to hear the worst of the worst that people do to each other,” Shores said.
While evidence of strangulation can be hard to spot, experts say knowing what to look for can actually save lives. District Attorney Summer Stephan said that, unfortunately, San Diego healthcare workers just aren't prepared to spot the invisible warning signs.
“We expect to see scratches and bruises, but often times it's not that,” Shores said. “It is sore throat, vision changes, hoarse voice, hearing changes.”
Shores said if you’re not looking for the less obvious signs, you might miss it.
“I can think back in my career where I have done that,” she said.
Shores will wok closes with the DA Office’s campaign to help train over 100 North County healthcare professionals on this subject.
Posters for the DA Office’s campaign show the torso, neck and head of three people -- one with a necklace, another with a bow tie, and a third with a scarf -- and the line underneath reads “Only you decide what goes around your neck.”
The posters encourage people to speak with their doctors or nurses about any potential strangulation.
Thousands of these posters will hang in medical schools, nursing schools, and patient exam rooms across San Diego.
Public records show from January 1, 2014 to April 2019, the San Diego Police Department responded to more than 20,000 domestic violence calls involving injury and, on average, respond to about 3,800 such calls per year.