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New York state makes choking a crime, 2,000 men arrested

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(CBS/AP) ALBANY - Nearly 2,000 men have been charged since New York state made strangulation a separate offense last fall in an effort to combat domestic violence, say officials.

About 1,600 defendants face the misdemeanor of obstructing someone's breathing or blood circulation. The crime becomes a felony if the victim blacks out or suffers other injury.

The state's domestic violence website describes strangulation as a way for abusers to assert "power and control." It also says that, "Historically, 'choking' was rarely prosecuted as a serious offense because victims minimize the level of violence and police and medical personnel fail to recognize it."

Before the new law, intentional choking was usually charged as harassment, a violation, if there were no visible injuries. If there were evident injuries, it was charged as third-degree assault.

The law, which is similar to one in California, took effect Nov. 11. The Division of Criminal Justice Services says the charge was lodged 2,003 times in the first 15 weeks and 94 percent of the suspects are male.

The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence cites nearly a half-million reported domestic incidents annually in New York, ranging from verbal disputes to homicides.