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Shining Light On Domestic Violence: ALS Technology Exposes Signs Of Abuse

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Exposing the signs of domestic violence. Too often, the bruises from abuse hide beneath a victim's skin, making it hard to prove what happened.

Jessica Kartalija shows us a new way to detect abuse, making it much easier to put violent offenders behind bars.

A new weapon to stop abusers is shining a light on domestic violence.

"My daughter was screaming 'Stop! You're killing her, daddy!'  It would be him kicking me, pushing me down the steps. He actually ripped my ear. He held me down and used his forearm across my throat.  So when you looked in the mirror, you couldn't see anything," explained 38-year-old Mary Calderone.

Calderone made it out of an abusive relationship with her ex-husband. Alive.

He beat her for years and even tried to strangle her. But like a lot of victims, the bruises on her neck were hard to see.

"My throat was sore and it was hard to swallow, but there was nothing visible to the naked eye." Calderone said.

The alternative light source, like you've seen on crime shows to collect evidence, can now put domestic abusers behind bars--exposing injuries on their victim's skin that many times can't be seen.

Kartalija: "How beneficial would this be to other victims of domestic violence out there?"

"Their body is a crime scene," Calderone said. "It could be the difference of whether a batterer is caught the first time or whether they end up actually killing somebody."

Abusers sometimes go free when there are no signs of injury on their victims.

In ground-breaking research, forensic nurses at Mercy hospital discovered that bruising invisible to the naked eye suddenly appeared 98 percent of the time when they shined the alternative light source on the victim's skin.

Kartalija: "How crucial is this light to providing the evidence you need?"

"We shine this light and all of a sudden you can see the lines where the fingers were," said Debra Holbrook, forensic nurse at Mercy hospital."You can see the fingerprints where the pressure points were. You can see the slap marks. You can see things you never could have seen before."

Photos show the detail revealed by the light. A red mark from a belt turns into a detailed imprint under the light.

"All of a sudden we have evidence," Holbrook said.

The new technology creates photographic evidence that's admissible in court and could help throw a violent offender behind bars.

"What the ALS technology does is allows you to see it, even if the naked eye can't see it and then it becomes a great piece of evidence and a tool that we can use," said Gregg Bernstein, Baltimore City State's Attorney.

Cases like Calderone's can be tough to prosecute without clear physical evidence. But photos like these make it easier for prosecutors to charge, convict and put away abusers--with or without the victim's cooperation.

"It's not about whether he said something or she said something, it's just evidence. That evidence could be the difference between whether kids have their mother, between whether a mother has her daughter, between whether you live or whether you die," Calderone said.

Mercy's use of ALS Technology to detect strangulation bruising is getting international attention.

Thanks to the Mercy's research, hospitals around the world are expanding use of ALS for domestic violence cases.

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