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More than 140 sexual assault response coordinators, law-enforcement officers, nurses and other professionals from Fort Riley and the surrounding communities spent March 29 learning more about the signs and effects of strangulation. The all-day seminar "Strangulation: The Last Warning Shot" discussed the medical and legal ramifications of this particular act of assault.

Barbara Garber, Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention program manager for the 1st Infantry Division, said the training was important because strangulation can be overlooked.

"In the commission of a crime -- and sexual assault is a crime -- strangulation can do lasting damage," Garber said. "The amount of time it takes to crush a Coke can can kill you, when it comes to strangulation."

She said the seminar helped professionals understand the lethality of strangulation and how to help identify the signs of strangulation.

Garber said the seminar was the result of a partnership between the 1st Inf. Div. SHARP program and The Crisis Center, Inc., which serves victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault in several counties near Fort Riley, including Riley and Geary counties.

"Education cannot be harmful," Garber said. "This is for anybody who may come in contact with a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence and how they can make a difference in that person's life.

The seminar was conducted by the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, a program of the Alliance for HOPE International, which is "focused on creating innovative, collaborative, trauma-informed approaches to meeting the needs of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children, according to the alliance's website.

Gael Strack, CEO and co-founder of Alliance for HOPE International, and Dr. William Smock, a police surgeon and director of the Clinical Forensic Medicine Program for the Louisville Metro Police Department in Louisville, Kentucky, led the seminar.

"Since I've been in the Army, I've always been in a 'helping other Soldiers' role," said Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Robertson, a sexual assault response coordinator and logistics noncommissioned officer for the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., one of the Soldiers who attended the event. "What attracted me to (the seminar) is that when I work with victims, sometimes I have no idea what they've been through. If they have been strangled or abused, you don't exactly know what they went through, so I don't know what to look for."

The San Diego native said as a result of attending "The Last Warning Shot," he can now help victims and medical professionals identify the signs of and possible injuries resulting from strangulation. Robertson said this can help victims receive necessary care they might not have otherwise.

"A lot of this stuff I didn't know about," he said of the subjects covered by Strack and Smock. "I knew you could have a stroke from being strangled, but I didn't know the signs and symptoms to look for."

Robertson said he plans to take what he learned at the seminar, do some additional research and share it with his fellow SARCs and SHARP professionals.

The seminar was part of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, which the Army recognizes each April. The Department of Defense observes SAAPM by focusing on creating the appropriate culture to eliminate sexual assault and requiring a personal commitment from all service members at every level, according to the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.