NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Strangulation doesn’t always cause visible injuries, but it can have a lasting impact on victims.

That’s why Metro Council signed a resolution making the second Tuesday in May “Strangulation Awareness Day” in the city.

“Over the past 20 years, much more attention has been paid to the dangers of strangulation, one of the most lethal forms of violence. Here in Davidson County, in the not-so-distant past, strangulation was just considered a simple assault,” said Lt. Michelle Hammond with the Metro Nashville Police Department’s Domestic Violence Division.

“In Nashville, 54% of victims that contact police have been strangled by their partner,” added Detective Jared Ester of the MNPD’s Domestic Violence Division.

It wasn’t until the Metro Office of Family Safety attended training on strangulations in 2018 that they realized how often domestic strangulations happen in Nashville each year.

“They did a search through the word ‘strangled,’ and it came up with very few cases. When they did that search again, with the word ‘choked,’ they found hundreds of cases of what are really strangulations. It’s shocking to see how frequently strangulation is occurring and how we’ve been missing it,” said Becky Bullard, senior director of programs for the Metro Nashville Office of Family Safety.

To raise awareness for more than 9,000 victims in Nashville who’ve reported being strangled since the Family Safety Center opened in 2019, dozens placed yellow flags along Murfreesboro Pike for the first Strangulation Awareness Day.

“As a physician, I know that strangulation’s consequences are just more than somebody passing out. These are patients that go on to have chronic headaches; they can have traumatic brain injuries; they can have seizures, and as the patient ages, they can have traumatic encephalopathy and even early dementia,” said Dr. Dorris Tyson, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Their message: strangulation can cause lasting injuries with no visible signs. The consequences of strangulation are way more than somebody passing out.

“Strangulation isn’t something that you can see all of the time. You can’t see fingerprint injuries or bruising. Really in 50% of the cases, we see no visible injury at all. So thinking about strangulation as something that can hurt you both externally and internally is really important for everyone to know about how strangulation can be deadly,” Bullard said.

The Office of Family Safety developed a Strangulation Response Protocol, which includes a pocket card that officers carry as a quick reference to major signs of strangulation, questions to ask victims, and how to express concern for the victim’s safety.

“How is fire responding? How are our hospitals responding? How are service providers responding to strangulations? How are the police responding? Let’s do a protocol to make sure we all do it the same way,” said Diane Lance, director of Nashville’s Office of Family Safety.

“Domestic violence has no place in our community,” said Chief Fred Smith, deputy director of EMS operations for the Nashville Fire Department.

If you feel unsafe, you can always find help by visiting the Family Safety Center at 610 Murfreesboro Pike in Nashville, or by calling 615-880-1100. The facility’s hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but you can reach out 24/7 about orders of protection.

For additional information on the Office of Family Safety’s mission regarding strangulation, click here.