Consent complicates matters in strangulation bill proposed in WA Legislature



(The Center Square) – Washington could become the first state in the nation to allow sexual assault charges in non-fatal strangulations, even if the partner allegedly consented to the act.

House Bill 2395 is sponsored by Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, and has bipartisan support.

Griffey told The Center Square he became aware of the issue last year after a constituent in his district shared her ordeal surviving seven years of sexual abuse by her husband.

“I won’t share the name of this woman to protect her identity,” he said. “Every time they had sex, he would strangle her and one time when it happened she woke up and couldn’t feel her extremities.”

Griffey went on to say, “The woman’s husband claimed a defense that she asked for it and so what we’re saying is strangulation is illegal, and nobody can consent to an illegal activity.”

“We also say if people choose to engage in that activity, they had better trust their partner,” he added.

Under Washington state law, the crime of is assault in the second degree is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

“We want to take away one of the arguments from the monsters,” Griffey said, referring to the consent defense. “You can’t make an argument that someone asked you to abuse them.”

In the case of Griffey’s constituent, charges have not yet been filed against the accused abuser, who still has visitation rights with the couple’s two children.

Griffey say he’s seen TikTok videos actually teaching young people strangulation techniques, with a challenge to post videos of the blackout game – a choking game that involves intentionally trying to choke oneself or another to obtain a brief euphoric state or high – which can lead to permanent injury and death.

“Right now, those trying to escape domestic violence and sexual assault situations are already behind the eight ball when they get to the court,” Griffey said. “Our legal system gives more weight to the testimony of others over that of the survivors.”

The bill has bipartisan support includes Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline.

“As a domestic violence survivor who has been working on domestic violence homicide prevention in the Legislature, one of the most glaring facts is the predictive correlation between a prior act of strangulation and future intimate partner homicide,” she said.

Griffey has been a leader in the Legislature in advocating for sexual assault survivors, including getting a bill passed and signed by the governor in 2019 that ended or extended the statute of limitations for several sex crimes, specifically for those involving children.

This bill is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 4 p.m. before the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee.

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