Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Domestic Violence: A New Tool To Help

Posted by Hannah at 2:18 PM

alternative light sourceThere are times in which its hard to prove domestic violence.  Victims have a hard time standing for themselves for a number of reasons.    I have heard today about a potential tool that could help all involved.  Its called a ALS or Alternative Light Source machine.  There are different ALS machines for different purposes.


Strangulation is one aspect of domestic violence that has been hard to prove, because it doesn’t always leave marks.  Waneta Dawn sent me a link on a News Story from USA Today. 


States cracking down on strangulation attempts




Attempted strangulation cases have long vexed police and prosecutors seeking stiff penalties for attacks. The act can leave victims close to death, but unlike blows that produce a black eye or broken nose, it generally leaves few, if any, external signs of injury needed to prove a felony assault charge. An attempted murder charge is also hard to sustain in cases where suspects intend to frighten rather than kill. As a result, advocates say, suffocation cases have historically been handled as misdemeanors that don't reflect the act's severity or carry meaningful punishment.

Debra Holbrook of Mercy Medical Center is in the above video, and she speaks about using Alternative Light Source for documented proof of strangulation.   Alternative Light Source is also known as “ALS”.  It has been used in the past for sexual abuse, sexual assault, or rape.  The process reminds me of Luminol.  Instead of the blooding glowing – the popular known use of luminol that you may be familiar with – marks from the strangulation can be seen.  Alternative Light Source or “ALS” you don’t need the chemicals like you do with Luminol.


This process takes the ‘he said she said’ option off the table.  It can be done at the crime scene or in the hospital.


William Umansky, a Defensive attorney was noted in the USA article to say:

he thought his state's law was flawed because it allows for felony prosecution without objective proof of a victim's injury. He said it gave prosecutors too much leverage to secure guilty pleas.

"Domestic violence is always bad, but the way I see it commonly prosecuted, there's no ligature marks on the woman's throat, no evidence of bruising. Just the verbal allegation, and all of a sudden, there's a felony charge," Umansky said.

The process of Alternative Light Source, or ALS does tend to take ‘doubt’ out of the equation.  As noted in the video Debra Holbrook states bruising is not needed, because the process shows the perpetrators hands on the throat – “they light up like a Christmas Tree!”  This can even happen days later when victims come to the hospital complaining of a sore throat.


This has to be a huge validation for the men, women and children that fall victim to strangulation.  This is a new technology designed to detect hard-to-see injuries and has been successfully used to prosecute domestic violence suspects.  ALS or Alternative Light Source is used to detect bruises hidden under a victim's skin.  Forensic Nurse Debra Holbrook states, "you can actually see hand marks, fingerprint marks, on somebody's throat."  Marked Woman is an article in which she goes into detail. 

Holbrook also stresses that women can come to Mercy even if they are not ready to involve the police. In Maryland, healthcare workers are not required to report domestic abuse cases to the authorities. "We're here to help," Holbrook says. "We will collect their evidence. We will take the pictures. Everything we do goes in a locked file, their insurance company won't know, their significant other won't know, their private doctor won't know. It's confidential and when they're ready to report, we can bring all these cases forward and can use them all to help them."

Keep in mind every state or country may be different as far as reporting domestic violence.

This is new technology, and I’m sure not all areas have this to use.  Hopefully, with time it will be more readily available.


Get in touch with your hospitals, and local domestic violence agencies to make sure they are aware of Alternative Light Source. 


New Use of Technology Shines Light on Strangulation is an article about ALS or Alternative Light Source.


Debra Holbrook


Power and Control has other medical videos, and is the source of the one I used in today’s video above.

Strangulation is the topic of today, but the same principal could be used for other parts of the body that bruising hasn’t surfaced.

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