Non-fatal Strangulation/Suffocation (NFSS)

For Public

Non-fatal strangulation/suffocation is a common and dangerous form of intimate partner violence and is a criminal offence in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Strangulation/suffocation can cause damage to the neck and brain, similar to what happens after concussion, or being knocked out. Serious problems are rare, but can develop hours or even days after the injury occurred.

If this has happened to you, it is important that you seek immediate medical help.

Shine NFS brochure

Where to get help

NFSS awareness info

What is Strangulation/Suffocation?

Strangulation (often confused with "choking") is when pressure is applied on or around the neck with enough force to reduce or stop breathing, or change the blood supply to and/or from the brain. This means that less oxygen is reaching the brain. Pressure can be applied in different ways - with one or two hands, or with something like a rope, or anything that puts pressure onto the throat. Suffocation is when breathing is obstructed or restricted by external mechanical forces such as smothering (obstructing air from entering the nose and mouth) or preventing the lungs from expanding to take in air by compression of the chest or abdomen. "Choking" is different as it refers to a blockage inside the throat which makes it hard to breathe.

What is the law change regarding Strangulation/Suffocation?

In 2018, a new offence of strangulation or suffocation came into force in Aotearoa New Zealand. This carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment (section 189A of the Crimes Act 1961).

Frequently Asked Questions

Go to your doctor or local urgent medical centre, the hospital, or call an ambulance (dial 111) if you experience any of the following:

  • sleepy or difficult to wake
  • confused (don't know where you are or get things mixed up)
  • fits (falling down and shaking)
  • bad headache or neck pain not helped by paracetamol (Panadol)
  • problems with breathing
  • tongue swelling
  • vomiting (being sick)
  • any weakness or numbness, or problems with balance or walking
  • problems with vision
  • difficulty speaking or understanding speech

If after seeing a medical practitioner about being strangled you develop new bruises or swelling, or feel worried, see your family doctor (GP) for a check or contact the doctor that you saw initially (if different) - they may be able to give you advice over the phone.

The following mild problems usually get better without any treatment, but if they persist for 2 weeks, see your family doctor for advice:

  • mild headache
  • feeling dizzy
  • trouble remembering things or concentrating for long periods
  • feeling tired, or easily annoyed
  • disrupted sleep patterns
  • bruises (small or pinpoint) on your face, neck and body
  • small burst blood vessels in your eyes

Strangulation injuries can have as big an impact on your psychological wellbeing as they can on your physical health. Seeing a counsellor can help provide you with support. Your GP, practice nurse, or the clinic that were assessed at initially, will be able to direct you to some local agencies who will be able to assist you.

  • DO take paracetamol (Panadol) for headache
  • DO take your usual pills
  • Do NOT take sleeping pills unless your doctor says you can
  • Do NOT drink any alcohol until you are better
  • Do NOT drive for at least 24 hours
  • DO take a few days off work or school if needed; some extra rest can make you feel much better
  • DO see your doctor for a check if you need further time off
  • DO start mild exercise when you feel better
  • DO check with your doctor or sports coach before playing sport again
  • Do NOT play any sport which could injure your head for at least 3 weeks

What to do if you have experienced non-fatal strangulation/suffocation

Most people get better after a strangulation/suffocation injury, however sometimes longer term problems or injuries may result. It is important that you seek medical advice from a medical practitioner as soon as possible, and let them know you have been strangled/suffocated.

If you are in immediate danger call the Police (dial 111).

    Where to get help