<< Back

ER Physician Takes Stand Against Domestic Violence

October 24, 2022

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but William Horgan, MD, works on awareness, prevention and education on this topic all year round. As a member of the board of directors for Safe Futures, Horgan, an emergency medicine physician who is also medical director of Quality and Safety at Backus Hospital, is helping to chart a course to improve access to services for domestic violence survivors in New London County. He also works tirelessly to educate first responders, police, judicial personnel, healthcare providers and others to the dangers of strangulation when it comes to domestic violence. Horgan has created a training program for anyone whose job would put them in direct contact with a domestic abuse victim detailing why recognizing strangulation is important. He is working with Safe Futures to have legislation introduced to the General Assembly that would require strangulation education be part of every first responder, judicial and police training. “There are currently only three states that have this legislation, Colorado, Washington and California,” Horgan said. “It’s important because strangulation is a precursor to domestic violence homicide. A survivor of strangulation has a 750% higher chance of dying due to intimate partner violence.” Because of this, Horgan and Safe Futures have created a “lethality assessment form” for first responders to help identify those who are at greater risk of future harm. "Strangulation victims are less likely to get care than victims of other types of abuse because in more than 50% of cases, there are no physical signs," said Horgan. "It’s why the first responder is so critical when we are trying to ascertain injury. Historically it was difficult to get felony charges due to the lack of signs of abuse, but that has changed with strangulation training and awareness.” Signs that someone has been the victim of strangulation can include changes in voice, confusion, dizziness and memory problems, all of which can be caused by having their air supply forcibly constricted.