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Strangulation Preconference

Sunday, May 19

8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.



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Strangulation Preconference Presented by:


Surviving Strangulation: Fighting for Your Life

In cases involving gender-based violence, practitioners often rely on physical violence and injury to determine criminal accountability, and the limits and complexities of the legal system are not designed to fully consider contextual evidence. As a result, investigations and prosecutions can fail to identify the impact of trauma, the necessity of survival, or the role coercion plays in the decision making of survivors. When this happens, survivors can be criminalized, predators avoid accountability, and we miss valuable opportunities to prevent further harm.

“I trust his ability to kill me, more than I trust the system's ability to keep me safe.”

– Survivor of Strangulation

Assaults involving the use of asphyxiation are particularly vulnerable to manipulation, misdirection, and misunderstanding. Although dangerous and sometimes deadly, victims of strangulation frequently lack obvious signs of external injury, while often leaving marks on the abuser as they fight for their life. But below the surface of the skin, survivors of strangulation experience dangerous physical and psychological trauma.

“Did you know that you can come this close to killing her and not leave a trace of evidence? How’s that for the perfect crime?”

– Perpetrator of Strangulation

Survivors of strangulation often report being afraid they were going to die during the assault. However, when survivors fight back to protect their own lives, but are then criminalized for their own survival, they are put in an impossible situation. As practitioners, we can learn to apply the lens of survival and utilize our professional discretion to determine a just outcome.

“After I was strangled, it was like he had a gun held to my head at all times.”

– Survivor of Strangulation

Various situations where victims might use violence against a perpetrator is common within the criminal justice system. This workshop will address these difficult scenarios and help attendees to navigate challenges when identifying and investigating claims of self-defense in cases involving intimate partner abuse, sexual violence, or human trafficking.
The workshop will also dissect the challenging issue of self-defense laws, particularly their failure to account for the fear and isolation that survivors of abuse experience. Attendees will be provided with strategies on how to improve practices to better understand evidence, identify the predominant aggressor, determine consent, and introduce legal strategies to increase offender accountability.
A team of nationally-recognized experts will facilitate the workshop, bringing both real-world experience and lessons learned, including their own cases to illustrate how to prevent women from being punished for defending themselves against abuse.

89% of attendees stated that they would change their practice based on what they learned

Preconference, 2022, Missed & Misdiagnosed Asphyxiation Deaths

82% of attendees stated that attending this course made them reconsider past cases.

Preconference, 2022, Missed & Misdiagnosed Asphyxiation Deaths


8:00am - 8:30am (30 min)

Check-in, networking, etc.

8:30am - 9:00am (30 min)

Welcome, Introductions, Training Overview, Keynote

9:00am - 9:45am (45 min)

Case Introduction & Identifying Key Players & Identifying Challenges

9:45am - 10:00am (15 min)


10:00am - 10:45am (45 min)

Legal Obstacles & Understanding the Gaps

10:45am - 11:15am (30 min)

The Susceptibility & Various Roles of Strangulation

11:15am - 11:30am (15 min)

Impact of Errors

11:30am - 12:30pm (1 hr)

Lunch (on your own)

12:30pm - 1:00pm (30 min)

Roles of Practitioners: Observations, Conversations, Interventions, & Documentation Tools & Tips

1:00pm - 1:45pm (45 min)

Beyond the Elements: Improving Identification of Self-Defense & Determining Predominant Aggressor

1:45pm - 2:45pm (1 hr)

Ethical Considerations & Court Interventions

2:45pm - 3:00pm (15 min)


3:00pm - 3:45pm (45 min)

Community Coordination: Case Review & Discussion

3:45pm - 4:15pm (30 min)

Putting the Pieces together: Lessons Learned

4:15pm - 4:30pm (15 min)

Questions, Closing, & Evaluations



Kelsey McKay

Attorney & Consultant, McKay Training & Consulting, LLC & President of the non-profit, RESPOND Against Violence

Kelsey McKay trains and consults nationally to strengthen how communities collaborate, investigate, and prosecute strangulation, sexual violence, intimate partner abuse and other power-based abuse. As a former prosecutor, she handled thousands of strangulation cases and developed protocols to implement successful ways that improve how communities respond these difficult cases.  Over the last seven years, Ms. McKay has written curriculums, developed trainings, and consulted on asphyxiation cases across the world. As a victims-rights attorney, she has represented victims and consulted with attorneys in family court, civil court, Title IX and the criminal legal system. She has served as an attorney and consultant on multiple cases where a victim of intimate partner abuse is criminally charged for killing an abuser. In February 2023 a jury acquitted her client of murder, finding that she had acted in self-defense.

Consulting Website:

RESPOND Website:

Dr. Scott Hampton

Director, Ending the Violence

Dr. Scott Hampton has been working with batterers, sex offenders, victims and children exposed to violence for over 30 years. As the Director of Ending the Violence, he provides community and jail-based educational classes to perpetrators. Dr. Hampton is also the Project Coordinator of Strafford County’s Supervised Visitation Center, a past president of the National Supervised Visitation Network, a peer reviewer for the U.S. Dept. of Justice and is a founding member of New Hampshire’s Fatality Review Committee. Dr. Hampton is frequently called upon to provide expert witness testimony in court and writes and speaks frequently on issues related to interpersonal violence having provided over 500 trainings in North America, Asia and Europe. His 2010 book, “Tolerant oppression: How Tolerance Undermines Our Quest for Equality and What We Should Do Instead” addresses the intersection of domestic violence, sexual assault, racism and other forms of oppression.


Dave Thomas

Senior Law Enforcement Consultant

David R Thomas is going on his 36th year of providing training and technical assistance to law enforcement at the state, local, national, and international levels. He is a retired police officer who taught at Johns Hopkins University, served the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program as a Highly Qualified Expert, worked as a Program Manager II, International Association of Chiefs Police, before going out on his own to serve as a Senior Law Enforcement Consultant.

Dr. Khara Breeden

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Texas Forensic Nurse Examiners (TXFNE)

Dr. Khara Breeden has been involved in forensic nursing since 2012. While collaborating with community partners, Dr. Breeden was challenged to aid in closing the gap in medical forensic services for victims of violence and developed a collaborative approach through the creation of Texas Forensic Nurse Examiners: The Forensic Center of Excellence, where she serves as Chief Executive Officer. The Forensic Center launched as a community based forensic nursing program in 2019, but has expanded to include advocacy, counseling and an adult forensic nursing program that is one of the first of its kind. The Forensic Center has expanded services from its original location in the Houston, Texas area and now has satellite forensic nursing programs in the Rio Grande Valley and North Texas regions. The Forensic Center is a community-based victim service center that is continually seeking creative ways to improve outcomes for victims of violence.

Andrea Zaferes

Medicolegal Death Investigator, Forensic Aquatic Consulting & Training, LLC

Andrea Zaferes, a medicolegal death investigator, is familiar with the handling of aquatic and asphyxiation cases from the scene to the courtroom. She trains law enforcement, medical examiners/coroners, dive teams, domestic violence and trafficking crime workers, medical personnel, and jurisprudence members to recognize, document, and investigate homicide, death, assault, and abuse cases that involve drowning and other forms of asphyxiation. Ms. Zaferes assists in analyzing and building such cases in the U.S. and abroad, and has developed standards for their investigation. She has been teaching dive teams around the world for more than 30 years to recover submerged evidence and bodies, is an author, and frequent public speaker on aquatic forensics. Ms. Zaferes is a pro bono consultant for such organizations as NCMEC and the NYS DCJS Missing Person Cold Case Review Panel, and works with Lifeguard Systems, Dutchess County Medical Examiners’ Office, and Respond Against Violence.