Despite fewer domestic violence cases, Fairfax Co. sees spike in strangulations

Those who work with domestic violence victims in Fairfax County, Virginia, said concerning trends are emerging, including a spike in the number strangulations reported to police.

At first glance, the numbers looked good. Fairfax County Police data obtained by WTOP showed domestic violence decreased by roughly 190 cases each year since 2019.

However, Saly Fayez, who oversees its victim services division, said it’s likely because the crime is underreported.

“There wasn’t an outlet, there wasn’t a coach to talk to, or a leader to talk to, or a teacher to talk to,” she said. “And that was really the scary part. And I still think there’s more going on in there that we’re not aware of.”

Fayez said the pandemic kept victims from reporting, skewed the data, and gave abusers another tool of control.



“That, ‘If you don’t start behaving, or if you don’t do this, I’m going to kick you out of the house, and you’re going to get COVID,’ things like that when people really didn’t understand what COVID was. And it really impacted a lot of our non-English speaking victims,” Fayez said.

Another concerning trend in the county is a sharp increase in officers responding to reported strangulations.

“I mean a lot of it is homicide prevention, what a lot of our detectives are doing or advocates are doing,” she said.

While the department doesn’t track strangulations specifically, the crime has been a felony in Virginia since 2012.

Fairfax County is offering a lifeline to victims of domestic violence who may fear their abuser could confront them or their children. The new Hope cards issued through the courts give them an inconspicuous way to ask for help.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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