Senate Bill 90 would make strangulation a crime, victims of abuse share their stories

MEDINA, Ohio – As Ohio lawmakers enter the lame duck session, ready to push through bills that have yet to pass before the end of the general assembly at the end of the year, domestic violence advocates and survivors hope that Senate Bill 90 will be one of them.

Senate Bill 90 makes strangulation a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor, which it is now.

It’s an important and personal cause for Jess Patz and Angelia Miller. The two women from northeast Ohio have an unusual and unbreakable bond.

“We were both married to the same man, at different times,” Patz said. “Having two survivors of the same abuser is powerful and I want lawmakers to consider that.”

Patz divorced her husband after years of physical, emotional and verbal abuse, including strangulation.

“I met her when she was dating my ex-husband at the time and she became stepmother to my two kids and our stories unfolded in a way we never saw coming,” Patz said.

Miller married him in 2014. She became his next victim. Her last night with him in 2017 was almost his last night alive.

“We were arguing about what was typical. He grabbed his belt and strangled me with his belt. He was telling me that if I wasn’t honest with him, I was going to die,” she said. “He was sitting on top of me and he started punching me and he broke my nose and my cheekbone and then after that he started sexually assaulting me.”

In and out of consciousness, Miller managed to narrowly escape. She drove herself to the hospital.

Eventually, her husband was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his actions that night.

“It doesn’t just go away after the choke is over. It’s a lasting effect that haunts you for years,” Miller said.

In 2018, Miller testified before Ohio lawmakers to urge them to pass the bill, then, that would make strangulation a crime. He never passed.

“I look back and think to myself what did I say that didn’t go through or what they don’t understand about my story? It’s not my story , this is my life,” she said.

Now, years later, the couple are still fighting for tougher sentences for strangulation, but they hope this year will be different and lawmakers can vote on Senate Bill 90.

“Something has to happen legally for people in this situation to feel like someone has their back,” Miller said. “We are lucky to have survived. There are so many people who did not survive and will continue to not survive. This is a big step in the right direction,” Patz added.

Ohio is one of only two states in the country that has not passed a bill making strangulation a crime.

Melissa Graves of the Journey Center for Safety and Healing, which supports those affected by domestic violence, said strangulation is the most dangerous and deadly form of domestic violence.

“Data and evidence shows that when strangulation is present in a relationship, it’s 700% more likely that situation will result in homicide,” Graves said. “It must be a crime and people must be held accountable for attempting to kill by strangulation.”

SB 90 is still in Senate committee, if it does not go through the Senate at the end of this lame session, the legislative process will have to start again next year.

“Reach out to your state, your senators and your House representatives, and urge them to take action and push this through so we can do this and protect women in our communities,” Graves said.

The center of Graves has a link on their site to learn more about the SB90 and to find your local representative.

The Journey Center for Safety and Healing’s 24-hour helpline is 216-391-4357. You can call or text.

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Norman D. Briggs