New Leader For Tulsa County's Domestic Violence Unit
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - Around 36 people a month are being prosecuted in Tulsa County for domestic strangulation.
Because these crimes are violent and unique, District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler created a special unit within his office to focus solely on these crimes.
Most domestic violence experts say strangulation is the most dangerous form of control in a relationship because the suspect can control whether you breathe or don't.
Cindy Cunningham is the new head of the DA's Domestic Violence Unit. These cases used to be handled by prosecutors who were also handling dozens of other felonies like robberies and assaults, but these cases are unique and come with lots of complex emotions, so they take extra care and training.
Research shows if a person is willing to strangle you, they are several times more likely to end up killing you.
"If you prosecute a domestic violence strangulation case, that's homicide prevention," Cunningham said.
Cunningham headed the legal team at Domestic Violence Intervention Services for several years and was the perfect fit for understanding and working with domestic violence victims, many who are reluctant to press charges.
"The national statistics tell us a victim of domestic violence, whatever the level, takes 6 or 7 times to actually leave that relationship," Cunningham said.
She says this new approach by the DA's office to focus on these cases can let victims know they have support and can be given all the resources they need, both medically and emotionally.
“If they're asked 'what's the last thing you thought about before you passed out,' a lot of times, it’s 'he’s going to kill me or what's going to happen to my children?'" Cunningham said.
They urge all victims who have been strangled, to report it to police, but at least get an examination. The physical effects may not be noticeable but can appear later.