By Jim Melwert

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — Depending which dictionary you use, the word “strangulation” is often defined as fatal. But under a recent Pennsylvania law, it does not always result. And the new law is a key tool in fighting domestic abuse.

Before the state legislature changed the law in October, strangulation fell under either aggravated or simple assault. Chester County Deputy District Attorney Michelle Frei says it would be difficult to prove the much more serious aggravated assault because often there weren’t obvious injuries.

“Unlike punching someone in the face, where you’re going to have bruising or swelling a lot of times, there’s no visible injury from strangulation, the injuries are internal,” Frei said.

Frei was instrumental in getting the new law on the books which classifies strangulation as a second degree felony when it’s against a family member.

She says it’s important as domestic abuse never de-escalates, so once someone puts their hands around someone’s neck, the next step is often homicide.

The charge is in recent headlines, as Joseph Myrhe, the Lower Providence man accused of horrific abuse against his family, is facing five counts of strangulation, in addition to dozens of other charges.

In the three-and-a-half months since the new law took effect, it has already been charged more than 100 times across Pennsylvania.