Strangulation is an activity in which someone's neck is constricted, with the goal of cutting off blood flow or the person's air supply. This activity can lead to death, and the goal of strangulation is sometimes death, but controlled forms are also used in some martial arts and in the law enforcement community, with the goal of suppressing an opponent without killing him or her. Humans have been strangling each other for thousands of years, with evidence of strangling being found in numerous archaeological sites all over the world.
In manual strangulation, the constriction is accomplished with the hands, sometimes paired with a tool such as a rod or baton. This form is sometimes known as throttling or choking, and it most commonly is perpetrated by men on women, because manual strangulation requires a great deal of force. People can also utilize something like a rope, wire, or cord in ligature strangulation, in which the cord does most of the work, and the strangler simply tightens it to compress the victim's neck. Hanging, in which the victim is suspended on a rope or similar device, is another form of strangulation.
Historically, many cultures have utilized this technique for executions, either by hanging or garrote for ligature strangulation. Evidence suggests that several cultures utilized garrotes in religious rituals such as ceremonial sacrifices and executions, and that controlled strangulation may also have been used in religious rituals. Strangulation is also a popular murder method in many regions of the world.
When someone is strangled, death can occur in several different ways. Many people associate strangling with asphyxia, in which the supply of air is cut off, but strangulation can also involve ischemia, in which the blood flow to the brain is restricted, and the brain dies. The patient often develops distinctive physical signs of strangling, such as small red marks known as petechiae, caused by burst capillaries, along with bruising and trauma along the neck, and severe damage to the voicebox and hyoid bone in the throat.
Studies conducted by several law enforcement organizations suggest that strangling is often a major component in domestic violence. While the victim of domestic violence may not necessarily be strangled to death, a violent partner could use controlled choking as a method of control, and the victim may not report it. Victims of persistent strangling can experience physical symptoms such as hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, or difficulty breathing, in addition to the emotional trauma associated with domestic violence and abuse.