Several States Make Choking a Felony Charge

Several states across the country are moving to tighten the laws on choking and strangulation by making it a felony charge. Several states across the country are moving to tighten the laws on strangling. A much debated topic, choking and strangulation is one of the top domestic abuse crimes, but is not considered a felony by many states.

Those in favor of making it a felony believe abusers deserve more than a slap on the wrist when severe choking occurs, while those who oppose the bill fear the felony charge will be loosely tossed around, which is a problem when it comes to false complaints.

Prosecutors and police have long been frustrated by the legal system regarding choking cases – victims can suffer brain damage, even come close to dying, but often show no outward sign. Generally, assault and battery crimes that rise to the level of a felony include significant physical evidence such as bruising, blood or broken bones.

Experts note that choking often precedes murder, and that most victims of choking have experienced it more than once in an abusive relationship.

Nearly 30 states have made strangulation and choking (or “knowingly impeding someone’s breathing”) a felony over the last 10 years. The state of New York took the law the furthest by requiring no physical proof of injury. Instead, police officers are trained to notice other signs of strangulation that might not include bruising and marks around the neck.

There are also hold-out states where lawmakers believe there are enough protections in place for victims of domestic abuse. Many criminal defense attorneys believe the idea of accusing someone of a felony charge without physical evidence will undermine the fairness of the system. In other words, fair trials in the area of domestic violence should not rest on “he said, she said” accusations.

There is an obvious need to protect victims of domestic abuse. There is an equal need to maintain a level playing field for those accused of domestic abuse. We’ll have to see how the felony charge of choking plays out.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.



Stanford Law Professor says, “Fair to Whom?”


Harriet —

In the same courtroom where Judge Persky sentenced Brock Turner to a lenient six months in county jail for three counts of sexual assault almost one year ago, another privileged perpetrator was given a lenient sentence.Neha Rastogi, a former Apple executive, suffered at the hands of her husband, Silicon Valley CEO Abhishek Gattani, for their entire relationship. He was first arrested in 2013, but the abuse only intensified. Recently Neha went back to the police for help and Gattani was charged with felony domestic violence.

But the prosecutor offered Gattani a plea deal to reduce the charge from felony domestic violence to accessory after the fact, with an accompanying misdemeanor of “offensive touching.” The deal includes a six-month jail term but Gattani will serve less than 2 weeks in jail and he will have the chance to expunge the felony from his record entirely. The prosecutor described this extremely lenient deal as a “fair outcome.”

Fair to whom? Certainly not Neha. She has described Gattani’s actions as terrorism — the plea deal lets him off the hook while his actions will stay with Neha for the rest of her life. Please sign our petition to #StandWithNeha and demand justice for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

With a previous domestic violence charge, recordings of Gattani’s abusive behavior, and pictures of her injuries, Neha thought her long nightmare was over — but the Santa Clara court system failed her. Neha prepared to object the lenient sentence in a harrowing victim impact statement — but in a further slap in the face, Judge Danner wasn’t even there. Danner had scheduled her vacation the same time as the sentencing.

Judge Rodney Stafford, a substitute judge who didn’t know anything about the case, was so moved by Neha’s statement that he has rescheduled the sentencing so Judge Danner must consider Neha’s statement before sentencing her batterer.

It seems fitting that a plea deal so lenient for a privileged defendant happened in the same courtroom that Judge Persky made his special exception for Brock Turner — a privileged Stanford athlete after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

It is the judge’s job to make sure that justice is done — the judge has the ability and the obligation to refuse a plea deal if it is too lenient.

Please sign our petition to #StandWithNeha to urge Judge Danner to listen to Neha’s victim impact statement before Gattani is sentenced. With the recall of Judge Persky, we can send a message that violence against women must be taken seriously by the courts.

Thank you,
Michele Dauber
Chair, Committee to Recall Judge Persky




PAVE stands with courageous teen sexual assault survivor Chessy Prout! Last week, Owen Labrie was back in court seeking a new trial. Labrie, a former prep school student at St. Paul’s School, was convicted in 2015 of sexually assaulting his classmate as part of the “Senior Salute” where senior men competed with friends to see who could “slay” the greatest number of younger girls.
The media surrounding the trial has been filled with language that seems to place blame on the survivor, not the perpetrator. Language is powerful! #ChessyProut is a survivor, not an accuser. Journalists, don’t blame survivors for sexual assault. They deserve support not scrutiny.
Chessy launched #IHaveTheRightTo with PAVE – get involved and post on your social media!
PAVE Ambassador Delaney Henderson pictured above said, “Chessy is my hero. Sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in the country and when reporters use victim-blaming language, it keeps other survivors silent.”
Join Chessy’s grandma – please support Chessy and participate today!
1. Take a picture and/or a short video with #IHaveTheRightTo _________
2. Post to social media with the hashtag #IHaveTheRightTo
3. Invite your friends to participate
4. Sign up for updates CLICK HERE
5. Tweet/FB in support of this

Trump is Cutting WHAT?

—–Original Message—–
From: Nita and Shaunna, UltraViolet <>
To: Harriet mohr <>
Sent: Fri, Jan 20, 2017 10:31 am
Subject: Trump is cutting WHAT?!

Dear Harriet,

Whoa. The Trump administration just announced plans to gut the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women programs.1

As soon as he’s sworn in today, President Trump wants to begin cutting funding for hundreds of local rape crisis centers,2 the National Domestic Violence Hotline–which has served almost 4 million people3–and sexual assault response training for hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officials.4 Since the programs were created, intimate partner violence has decreased 67%, and more people are reporting sexual violence and getting the support they need.5 Gutting these programs will literally cost women their lives.

Luckily, Trump can’t do this alone. Congress needs to approve these cuts–if they hear from enough of their constituents, they won’t want to be on record supporting Trump’s dangerous plans, just like we saw during the election. Will you add your name right now?

Tell Congress: “Protect Women. Do not approve any budget that guts the Office on Violence Against Women, Legal Services, or the Civil Rights Division.”
Sign the petition

Even under a supportive administration, we struggled to curb the epidemic of rape and domestic violence in the United States–1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted,6 and 1 in 4 have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner7–meaning we need more support, not less.

The Office on Violence Against Women has increased rates of prosecution of sexual violence by funding dedicated law enforcement units and training officers, prosecutors, and judges around the country.8 These programs also set up national counseling hotlines, which for millions are often used as the first call for help, and provide legal services for those who can’t afford them.9

Trump also wants to gut the Civil Rights Division, which among many important issues enforces Title IX to ensure every person has equal access to pursue an education free from sexual violence.10 This law is instrumental in tackling campus sexual assault.

We should be strengthening Violence Against Women programs, not gutting them. Will you let your member of congress know you need them to support women and block any budget that includes these cuts?

Thank you!

–Nita, Shaunna, Kat, Karin, Adam, Holly, Kathy, Onyi, Susan, Anathea, Audine, Shannon, Megan, Libby, Emma, PaKou, and Pilar, the UltraViolet team



  1. Trump team prepares dramatic cuts, The Hill, January 19, 2017
  2. SASP Formula Grant Program Report, Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, accessed January 19, 2017
  3. A Year in Review: About the Hotline, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, accessed January 19, 2017
  4. STOP Program Report, Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, accessed January 19, 2017
  5. Factsheet: The Violence Against Women Act, White House, accessed January 19, 2017
  6. Sexual Violence Facts at a Glance, Center for Disease Control, accessed January 19, 2017
  7. A Year in Review: Statistics, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, accessed January 19, 2017
  8. STOP Program Report, Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, accessed January 19, 2017
  9. Factsheet: The Violence Against Women Act, White House, accessed January 19, 2017
  10. Educational Opportunities Section, Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, accessed January 19, 2017



Dear Harriet,

Our Make Equality Reality gala this past Monday in Beverly Hills was a stunning success!  We surpassed our fundraising goals, which will go a long way to helping us to continue our work to create a just world for women and girls. Thank you for your support. We are truly grateful for your partnership and friendship.

The evening was an inspiration. Jane Fonda, Jaha Dukureh, and Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes showed why they are powerhouses for change, captivating the audience with their humor and passion for the cause. And, we were honored to have Lily Tomlin, Gloria Steinem and Debbie Allen on hand to introduce them.

To read more and see additional pictures and videos, click HERE

Infographic: Rape in war, by the numbers

By — January 9, 2015

We know there’s a problem but we don’t know how big it is. That’s what governments, scholars, and others argue when trying to figure out how to allot funds toward this problem of sexualized violence in conflict. If we don’t know the numbers, they ask, how can we help properly? How can we mount prosecutions? Offer reparations? Put in place proper advocacy? So the thinking goes.

In years of documenting sexualized violence in the Syria conflict, I’ve long maintained that we can’t know in a hot war exactly how many women and men are being violated—but we know it is happening. There have been too many reports, many credible and confirmed, to say it is not. Which means that every dollar not spent to help these survivors, many of whom appear to have made it out of the war zone, is another survivor left suffering without psychological, medical, or other supportive care. (And there is next to no money being spent on these issues in the Syria context, according to my sources in the region who treat survivors of torture and rape. They say that women who are escaping abduction from ISIS are returning severely traumatized and sit languishing in temporary centers with zero psychological treatment.)

The problem is that it is nearly impossible to know exact—or often even ballpark—numbers of women raped in conflict. There’s too much in the way: the murder of victims after rape (aka the destruction of evidence), deep stigma that prevents reporting, fear of retribution by either the perpetrators or the survivor’s family. Women have no reason to come forward.

But over time, some have. Much of the work to count them has been done forensically, however, through costly research efforts. Here then are some of the numbers painstakingly gathered by researchers. Beneath the numbers, I’ve written just a few specific reasons why we shouldn’t trust them—why all numbers counting a problem based in trauma and fear are certainly higher than estimated.

Numbers are crucial to quantifying any problem. But numbers can also be a smokescreen preventing us from seeing the pain happening around us every day. Share them with a grain of salt. Let others know that behind each number is a human who has suffered deeply, and that she too deserves to be counted.


Full ranges of estimates in the chart above, with links to sources:

Bosnia, 1992-95 50,000-60,000
Colombia, 2001-09


Democratic Republic of Congo, 2006-07


Nanking, 1937 20,000-80,000
Rwanda, 1994 250,000-500,000
Sierra Leone, 1991-2002 215,000-257,000
WWII, 1944-45



“According to a 2013 global study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, only 7% of survivors of gender-based violence formally reported the violence to police, medical, or social services.” This study was carried out by Stony Brook University Professor Tia Palermo, Jennifer Bleck of the University of South Florida, and Amber Peterman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.