Body Memories of Strangulation

I haven’t been on this blog much lately because I was writing my novel. I did it! I finished 50,000 words in one month. Yay for me. I took a break from the singing practice during novel writing month and hope to come back.

[Abuse triggers]

Lately the big issue for me is strangulation.

I’ve been having body memories from when I was strangled. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a body memory (I don’t have a lot of them) or just a sore neck in a place that made me think of when I was strangled when I was about 6. So being the kind of person who likes to know what I’m dealing with, I did some internet searching on long term effects of strangulation. I was wondering if the pain I was feeling was some kind of long term effect.

Kind of a mistake, although maybe not.

I remember being strangled into unconsciousness from pressure on the front of my throat. I was fairly young, maybe 5-7. I remember the pain, struggling to breathe and not being able to take in air, and passing out. I passed out long enough that I was disoriented and he was gone. I was in shock or quite disoriented for a day or two afterward.

What my internet search told me about this is that I survived attempted murder.
My air was definitely cut off, and perhaps blood to my brain as well.

Here are some immediate effects:

  • Abrasions, lacerations, contusions, or edema to the neck, depending on how the patient was strangled
  • Subconjunctival and skin petechiae cephalad to the site of choking (Tardieu spots)
  • Severe pain on gentle palpation of the larynx, which may indicate laryngeal fracture
  • Mild cough
  • Stridor
  • Muffled voice
  • Respiratory distress
  • Hypoxia (usually a late finding)
  • Mental status changes (short term -restlessness or combativeness, long term  – amnesia, psychosis (hallucinations))
  • I definitely had the larynx pain. I don’t know what else. Hypoxia is a shortage of oxygen in the tissues. Cerebral Hypoxia which can cause confusion and fainting. I have these constant, recurring nightmares where I am trying to get help but am confused and can’t successfully do whatever I’m trying to do, usually get away or call for help on the phone or some other way.  I think when I came to I was very confused.

    Apparently depending on how much blood supply is cut off, a person can lose consciousness in as little as 10 seconds, if the strangulation happened for longer, I’d have been dead. Strangulation, according to the sources I looked at,  typically has very subtle marks, even when it is severe. Even people who were killed by strangulation might not have much in the way of marks. There might not even be bruising, which tends to lead law enforcement to underestimate the severity of the attack. Women are far more likely to be strangled by men than men are by men, since the person doing it has to be a lot stronger.

    I can’t find the reference now that really hit home for me. It said something like if the victim was strangled for a short while they might lose consciousness and then regain it quite quickly when the strangulation was released. If the person was strangled for a little longer, and lost consciousness for longer, then they were very close to serious brain damage and death. That was me.

    What was different for me this time is that I’m feeling less separate from what happened to me. I used to feel these things as happening to my child self, with an intellectual sense of it having happened to me. Now, I think it is finding the scars on my vulva. These things happened to me.

    I told my therapist my full memory of being strangled, went into the body memory and described it to her. The pain in my throat was bad, and over the course of the session it dissolved. My larynx still aches from time to time, when I get triggered, but is a lot better.

    No WONDER singing has been such a struggle for me. No wonder I’ve had these constant dreams of being confused. I sure hope I’m going to have more of these body memories. I know there’s more, unfortunately. I guess the only way out is through. They’re validating but painful.

    31 thoughts on “Body Memories of Strangulation”

    1. I was strangled frequently as a child. I used to think ‘go ahead and finish me off. one the the last times my Dad strangled me, he lifted me to where my feet were off the floor.
      I now, in my late 60s, have aspirations when i eat, drink or swallow almost once a day. Over time my swallowing got worse wth more frequency.

      1. sworddancewarrior

        I’m sorry Cyn. I wonder if physio would help? I haven’t had long term effects in my neck but my other injury has been helped by physio once I figured out it actually existed for what I was dealing with. If there’s something wierd about the way your muscles are working as a result of your injury, maybe it can be rehabbed. You deserve to be free of the effects of him. Solidarity to you.

    2. Thank you sworddancewarrior for your blog, I suffered strangulation 17 years ago I suffered total memory loss and it is only in the last few years the memory has surfacing, after some very hard work in hypnosis techniques. I have had a problem with the side of my head, clavicle and shoulder being in very tight spasm since it happened, I have been to every kind of therapy to get to the reason for my very uncomfortable feelings. At the time I went to the doctor with a rash of small red dots on my chest, trouble with swallowing and I did notice voice changes as I used to love singing and found I didn’t sing so well any more. I went to a osteopath who said he thought I had a bleed in my head, the doctor said it was rubbish, and 17 years ago the doctors were not obliged to listen to their advice. As I didn’t remember the event I couldn’t put things together, looking back my way of thinking erratic and I would write everything down, what I wrote became my clues in remembering. The police investigated as other things became apparent about this man, unfortunately there was no evidence although I know he is seriously dangerous. I am so grateful for your page, because as you say, there is very little information for people who have experienced these awful traumas. Good luck and thank you so much x ..

    3. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story….I can relate in many ways… I am currently doing research on the long-term effects of strangulation due to my health… if you could share your sources I would appreciate it greatly…

      1. I don’t recall the sources now, but if you copy the exact wording of the symptoms into a search engine, it will likely pop up, since I copied them verbatim. Good luck with your research!

    4. This happened to me about a week ago. Everytime I think about it, I subconsciously stop breathing and remember how scared I was. I dont know how long it was but it felt like an eternity. He let go of my throat right when I started seeing black/shadows and I started to see normally again. I tried to be calm and beg for my life but nothing helped… all I could think to do next was stare him in the eyes and mouth “please” until I died. I’m grateful to be alive every day. I didn’t report the incident nor did I go to the hospital. I’m too terrified to repeat the experience over again. I want to talk to someone about it that can help me but I dont want police involved. What did you do? And I’m sorry this happened to you at such a young age. Thank you for sharing

      1. Hi Angelica,
        I’m so sorry this happened to you. First off, are you safe? If this is someone who you live with you need to find a way to get out permanently: there women’s shelters that can help you.

        You need to find somebody to talk to. I was a child and I didn’t have a lot of resources but you are an adult and can get away. When you have some support you will find it will feel a lot easier to do what you need to to make sure you are safe and that he can’t hurt you again. I am rooting for you. You deserve to be safe.

        If you are not yet up to going to the police, I suggest at least getting checked out by a doctor and telling her what happened so she can check for damage to the bones in your neck and document anything that might still show from what happened. Bring a camera and ask her to take a photo of anything she thinks is from the attack. It’s possible that there won’t be much showing now, but that’s okay. The sexual assault centre may be able to send someone experienced with you to help document things.

        If you have any bruises, have someone take pictures. That person might need to testify in court that they were the one who took the pictures and when and why at some point, so make sure it is someone who cares about you enough to do that. If you’re like me, you will have times when you don’t want to involve the police and times when you regret you didn’t, so trust me, cover your bases so you can if you need to.

        I had an advocate from a sexual abuse survivors program that went with me when I reported to the police ( I wrote about it here), and if you can find someone like that, maybe from the local sexual assault centre, that will be helpful. You could also talk to a lawyer to find out what will happen if you report him to the police so you can make a choice about it. Probably also the sexual assault centre will know. The sexual assault centre will almost certainly help you even if you weren’t sexually assaulted as well as strangled.

        If you can’t deal with any of this, please do whatever you think is necessary to keep yourself safe. A man who would strangle you like that is probably a sociopath, and the best way to deal with them is to not have any contact (phone, email, in person, anything) with them and get away from them. If you think you need to leave town to be safe, you do need to do that.

        Hugs to you, May you be safe and whole.

    5. Sorry that was meant for.

      Carol b says:
      September 16, 2012 at 4:35 am

      I was strangled by husband @ time. Now ex. I didnt seek medical treatment then. But I am now. Got an atty& judge ordered immediate divorce in 1997. Some auto accident injuries r similar to strangulation. Getting full medical treatment currently. I am also doing some of my own research on this matter. U have given me more insight & info. Thank u so much.

    6. Wow I just read the letter to the aunt. I need to reread the rest I don’t know why when I was skimming the page I had to stop and slowly read the letter. I am that aunt no worse the mom who didn’t show her abuse I wanted to for years but, when I found out about another being abused I called the cops took it to court they said i was just mad at her dad to make it short who would believe me even after passing a lie detector test. Counselors papers got lost and medical recorders thrown out for one reason or another. But, I could be a walking exhibit, I didn’t know the curse would be passed on to her I thought I was just messed up it was my fault he wouldn’t hurt her. First the shame then scared now I see more clear but, how do you tell someone who has not been through it how it plays with your mind. Yet your not crazy now that your away from it and it took years to put the pieces together and I am still trying to put some together. I have to wounder did I put them together once before and not remembered and just had a black out in my mind.

    7. I was strangled by husband @ time. Now ex. I didnt seek medical treatment then. But I am now. Got an atty& judge ordered immediate divorce in 1997. Some auto accident injuries r similar to strangulation. Getting full medical treatment currently. I am also doing some of my own research on this matter. U have given me more insight & info. Thank u so much.

      1. I am not sure if I am getting you right 15 years later and your just now getting help?
        The reason why I ask is I just started seeing a neurologist we would be in the same time frame and it may be related to the abuse from my past. I haven’t been able to talk about it much my kids are with my ex and in my heart I know my daughter took my place. So there are more than scars this is hard for me my thoughts are not always clear I get confused when I talk or think about it out loud. I love this blog writing is the only way I deal with it now. But at my next appointment I suppose to talk about it. I am up now because of flashbacks and worried about my kids. I don’t even talk to my husband about it or the effects of it I don’t how those of you who do talk to them. I started to once and I couldn’t even stand being in the same room as him for about two months. I tried to act normal around him I knew it was all in my mind but, it was like I hated him as much or more than my ex who was the abuser.

        1. Hi Genie,
          I never did get medical attention for the rape and strangulation. If my mother (or father) had taken me to a doctor, they would have had to admit it happened and who did it, so they didn’t. I don’t know what was in their heads, or how my mother justified it to herself, but the long and short of it, no medical care I remember, and judging from the scarring, no stitches. The vulva healed up, with some scarring, and I have a neck that needs the chiropractor fairly regularly.

          Your writing sounds like you are in some chaos right now. I’m finding it a little hard to follow. Just so I understand – So you were abused as a child, you married a man who abused your kid, you tried to have him charged and it didn’t go anywhere, and you are having flashbacks where you are projecting your ex husband (and I’m guessing, your original abuser) onto him. This is actually pretty normal, to have the flashbacks. I recommend going to a good female therapist who has a clue about childhood sexual abuse to work on the experiences with the first abuser first. A good way to screen is to say, as matter of factly as you can, that you are working on issues of childhood sexual abuse, then watch her body language. If she seems to flinch or look uncomfortable, find another therapist, even if she says she’s experienced. Social workers, psychologists are often a good place to start. Psychiatrists aren’t really trained for it, and church ministers usually have too much baggage about respecting your parents that gets in the way.

          Good luck,

    8. Hi sworddancewarrior,
      I am sorry for all of the issues you have also had to face because of your childhood trauma. I would agree that you could very well fall under the diagnosis of DDNOS. I tend to vie w an inner child as always being present and connected to our soul. One that can not be integrated, so to speak. I have numerous alters, fragments that were dissociated at the time of the abuse, and my inner child, the younger aspect of myself. My guess would be that the young part that was integrated, was in fact an alter. Alters often have the ability to control or influence the body without fully presenting themselves. For example, back in high school (way before I was diagnosed with DID) I walked past a classmate who had, earlier in the week, tried to force himself on me. I tried to ignore him and just keep walking, but as I went past my arm lashed out and quite brutally punched him in the face. I had absolutely no control over what my arm did, in fact it took a few seconds for me to realize what had even happened. Not that I was sorry ;). Similar things have happened since then, but that one always sticks out in my mind.
      I still suffer from sever depersonalization/derealization. I am slowly learning how to re-attach and be present in my body. I often feel like I am floating out of body and that my body is not a part of me.

      I am sorry you also suffer from long term ailments due to your abuse. I was wanting to comment on another post regarding your new sexual partner. I am glad it went well and that you were able to be open with her about the vulvodynia, but would also stress the importance of being able to be totally open and honest with your sexual partners. As survivors, we struggle with many issues that others would never even consider, such as anxiety, flashbacks, heightened sensitivities. I totally understand your anxiety and apprehension about revealing such a personal issue, I think many survivors struggle with this same issue. I do believe it is important for a partner to understand and accept these issues before I am able to open myself to them sexually.

      I had never thought about the possibility of having the flap surgically repaired. I think at present, it would be too triggering, but I may hold onto that as a possibility for the future. Thanks for the suggestion! As far as scarring inside my vagina, I am not sure; nothing has ever been mentioned to me. My cervix is displaced (the opening faces the back wall) though, which occasionally causes pain during intercourse. Luckily, I have no obvious nerve damage.

      Like many of the other issues I have, the fractured hyoid was discovered coincidentally when I was undergoing radiology studies to find out why I kept aspirating. The ENT was quite surprised and tried to question me about previous trauma to my neck. At that time I had not discussed my childhood abuse, with any of my doctors. He explained that my hyoid bone was fractured in the middle and displaced slightly to the left. He also told me that most people who have their hyoids fractured die due to the resulting trauma. With the help of my therapist, we were able to give my GP and ENT a thorough assessment of my abuse and they ordered a full workup to look for other damage. Until that time, I had lived with a bunch of odd symptoms with no explanations. It was both a very painful realization and an enlightening experience. I finally understood what was going on with my body. Since then, I have been on the look out for a general practitioner who specializes in childhood trauma because I worry sometimes about the long term effects of my symptoms. One I forgot to mention in the last post, I also have cervical spinal stenosis, which I am not sure if it is abuse related or not (my father was also physically abusive and shook me in infancy). It causes numbness across my shoulders and down my arms and is something that will require surgery in the near future. I am not sure how you feel but I become so enraged when I think of the damage that was done to our poor little innocent bodies.
      Be well

      1. Hi Unsilenced,
        You know, your story about punching the guy reminds me of something I did years ago. I was living with a guy I was dating who was pressuring me sexually. He wasn’t a bad guy, just young and I was both gay and a new-recovery survivor and not very assertive. It wasn’t date rape, it was more just sexual pressure, but I can understand parts of me seeing it that way. Anyhow I used to constantly ‘accidentally’ knee him in the balls and then laugh. I would have sworn it was accidental, certainly not deliberately intentional, but I found it hilarious. I think this was some part of me getting even for the sex I gave in to but didn’t really want. Perhaps this was an inner survivor acting out.

        I seem to be doing okay with the whole new sexual partner thing. I’ve been able to be frank enough and also to be able to have sex without getting triggered, which is awesome. Mostly I provided the information that felt necessary. I ended up telling her most of what people who read this blog knows, actually, and found out she could relate. I’ve gotten a lot better about disclosing without feeling shame, and not being self-conscious about the accommodations I need.

        Wouldn’t it be nice if there were health care providers that could help survivors like us assess the damage and repair what is possible to repair? What a shame that our history seems to freak out some of these folks, or that they don’t have the information to deal.

        Anyhow, again, really nice meeting you.

    9. I too am a survivor of childhood sadistic sexual abuse and was strangled to the point of passing out many times. I understand the pain of these body memories and wonder if I have suffered damage from these events. I too also have scars, but mine are from a torn perineum (the flap of skin going from the vagina to anus). I am so sorry that you have had to endure such pain, but your story helps me to feel a little less alone. Thank you!

      1. Hi unsilenced,
        The same goes here. Us survivors need to stick together. Not to minimize the experience of those who were molested or assaulted less violently or physically intrusively, but it’s not the same. Thank you for sharing your similar experience. I’m wondering, did you have an extended dissociated time after you regained consciousness? I seem to remember I felt very unreal for a long time afterward, which as a child I thought meant I had literally died.
        I’m sorry about your injury. It sounds like that could have some long term effects too. I’m assuming you didn’t get medical attention either?
        Thank you for commenting. I’d love to compare notes on the effects.

        1. Hi sworddancewarrior,
          Thanks for your reply. Due to the abuse from my grandfather, I developed dissociative identity disorder and my memories are extremely fragmented. Most of the memories of the strangulations are just short blips. I do however, have full memory of a drowning experience (he held my head under running water in the bathtub) where I dissociated and floated out of body. I remember feeling very unreal and totally numbed out, is that similar to your experience?
          You are right, unfortunately, I never received medical attention for any of my injuries. For this particular one, the tearing of my perineum, it didn’t heal properly and I still have a V flap of skin that rips very easily during intercourse. I would compare it to a episiotomy that didn’t heal correctly, even though I have never had a baby.
          There are numerous other injuries I have suffered due to the abuse I endured, such as:
          damaged epiglottis – doesn’t cover my windpipe properly so I suffer from choking/coughing fits and numerous chest infections.

          Fractured Hyoid – Doesn’t interfere with my physical health much, just occasional pain.

          Weak trachea/collapse – Causes abrupt ion in breathing followed by fast air intake which makes an odd snorting sound and difficulty taking in air with tracheal spasms/vibrations while running, exercising or other activities which increase respiration….. more embarrassing than anything.

          As a child I suffered from sever croup, chronic bronchitis, and numerous bouts of pneumonia.

          Those are most of the effects from the suffocations/drownings.

          I am also infertile, have a displaced cervix, suffer sever abdominal pains (may be body memories), irritable bowel syndrome

          My mother was an alcoholic and it is likely that I suffer from mild effects of fetal alcohol syndrome.
          I also have dyslexia and was diagnosed with sever delayed muscle development, failure to thrive and a heart arrhythmia when I was young.

          Wow, I have never really looked at it all at once before. That is all i can remember at the moment.

          1. Hi unsilenced,
            Damn, girl. I’m so sorry. I don’t think I was strangled super often, maybe not more than once, although like you I have some traumatic amnesia, so there’s always some dark corners. I also seemed to have escaped without DID, although sometimes I wonder. My ‘inner child’ definitely had her own personality, information, agenda and feelings, often at odds with my main personality so much that we had to negotiate, but I don’t think she ever drove the body solo without me along too, although that’s certainly possible. She’s pretty much integrated now, as far as I can tell. I think it was more dissociative disorder not otherwise specified territory.

            My numb/floating thing went on for several days or weeks very intensely, and then probably never left completely. I was only 5 or 6 so I believed I’d died but no one had noticed. I was really dissociated from my body through to my early 20’s, so much so that I couldn’t feel skin sensations anywhere on or in my body unless I was actually touching something. I couldn’t tell you whether my feet were warm or cold without touching them with my hands, or where my hands were if I didn’t see them, stuff like that.

            I have vascular damage which makes my vulva hot, sore, itchy and puffy unrelated to any kind of infection. My guess until I saw the scars was that I had a chronic mild yeast infection but it never showed up on tests. I have a relatively small tag of flesh on the vestibule which gets sore if rubbed during sex. My nurse practitioner suggested I have a surgeon remove it, which is probably a good idea. Have you ever considered/looked into getting the flap repaired or would that be too triggering? I think I could do it if my spouse was there.

            I don’t know if I’m infertile as I’ve never tried to get pregnant. The thought of tearing while giving birth was, understandably not something I thought I could handle. My nurse practitioner says that she can’t see any scarring inside my vagina, which would make sense because being a mucous membrane that refreshes pretty frequently, it would have shed scars faster. Apparently lots of kids with documented tearing heal up without scarring. I know a woman who experienced what you and I did, definitely more tearing than me, and she got repaired at the time. She still has nerve damage, but no visible scarring.

            My childhood things were painful peeing, which may have been bladder infections or other complications from getting raped. I was also nauseous a lot of the time, and had/have asthma. I had what felt like a ‘lump in my throat’ in my early teens that prevented me from singing, painful, and constricted. Not sure if this was emotional or physical. Based on some vague memories, I think it might have resulted from an oral rape. My neck goes ‘out’ a lot, and gets tense, and my massage therapist says there’s stuff there that needs work. I don’t know more. I told a massage therapist I’d been strangled and she asked if I’d gotten medical attention as a way of assessing severity. When I said no, she wrote it off. Duh, some people who need medical attention don’t get it. How did you figure out about the fractured hyoid and other neck/windpipe things?

    10. I’m so glad I found your blog, I have been looking for information just like this too! You are right, it is hard to find any information on it. Do you know anything about how it might effect other brain functions long-term? It’s really great to see someone writing about this so openly!!

      1. No, I haven’t found much. If you do, I hope you’ll provide a link. I’ll add more if I run across something. There must be some research on survivors of torture, but I guess they don’t put that stuff on the net.

        1. Hi Sworddancewarrior,

          I found a PDF link that comes from the Wisconsin Medical Journal from 2003 that deals with the results from strangulation, especially regarding domestic violence. I’ve been looking for information about sudden death in women survivors of domestic violence years after they have left the abusers as this is unfortunately something I and other shelter workers have been seeing more of up and down my state. It’s likely from lack of medical intervention over the long term and reading some of the commentary here seems to back that up from the people posting in your blog. There should be more research by now, but this is a start.

          The link is here:

          On another note, I am also a survivor – was very involved in the ‘movement’ back in the late 1980’s and 1990’s back when Laura Davis and Ellen Bass were just releasing The Courage to Heal and Mike Lew was writing Victims No Longer.

          The best revenge is living well, although putting some of these slime in prison or worse when possible is not a bad thing at all either. Thankfully, when I was 15 I was able to testify and after two years of ongoing court trials, the abuser was sentenced and imprisoned. My story is not the typical survivor story, many of my memories are intact — which is a curse of its own in its own way. The experience in the courtroom was nothing short of a two-year prolonged mental rape thanks to the tactics that defense attorneys of that era were allowed to invoke. But I was not going to fail to protect the dozens of other children this man was abusing and others he would later gain access to — nor fail my own inner child even though I was still technically a child at that time myself.

          I wrote more but it’s more about my stuff and not exactly on topic to what’s being discussed here but hopefully I can find a way to send you the other portion. I saved it so it’s not lost. Thank you for having this blog and I hope you keep it going and find more information and all that come here to read and share continue healing.

          Lone Falcon

          1. Hi LF,
            Thanks for posting that link. I look forward to having a look. Yes, I was ‘in the movement’ during that time too. Bass and Davis’s work was definitely a scene-changer.

            I reported my abuser to the federal police in my country. I chose not to go forward with the trial (they found enough evidence to go to court), based on seeing people like yourself go through what you did in court. I wasn’t up for it then. I am now, but it’s too late. I did my best in reporting him and making sure all my family knew. I told my brother that if I ever heard he’d given my father access to his kids I’d call the police and social services immediately. Luckily they were fairly quickly on board.

            Feel free to post links to your other writing here if you like.

            In solidarity

            1. Hi again SDW,

              Here’s another link to a short abstract of a study regarding injuries to the carotid artery. This is from the March 2000 Journal of Neuroscience. It’s older but this article has 23 citing references at the bottom of the link. I have not checked out all the citing refs yet but it seems like it will lead to many more articles and information. Some in the academic world are quite aware of the long term implications of strangulation. But as always, it’s very slow to get the police and public at large to react and acknowledge these things. More so when the inhabitants of the Ivory Tower keep their information locked away or price it out of reach. The only big problem with this link is that to read the full text they want $ of course… But there might be a way to find the authors of the study and maybe petition them or contact them to see if they would be willing to allow you to get access to their work or possibly some type of permission to put some information up on your blog. Or it might be available somewhere else on the web… Worth a try to look for it.


              I’ll post what I wrote in another area of your blog where it’s more appropriate a bit later. It’s always there but it has been a little while since I’ve written about my experiences. Some things are as if they happened yesterday – and others seem like so long ago. Thanks for replying. I will post more information / links as I find it.


    11. I’m not wanting to take away from your story, but you might want to change to word “vulva” to uvula. A vulva is part of your genetalia.

      1. Hi there,
        Nice to meet you. No, I know what and where my vulva is, and I have scars on it. The rape that resulted in the tearing of my vulva (from my vaginal vestibule across most of the way to my clitoral hood) happened at the same time as the strangulation. The pain, followed by passing out made me believe (I was a child of about 5) that I was literally dead, which is a whole other story. My uvula is fine. I’m guessing that you haven’t read the other posts in my blog that explain this, so you misunderstood the context. No worries. Thanks for reading.


    12. I think it is a miracle and a testament to you that you are alive and breathing, and able to share your story. You survived an attempted murder, which means you win and they lose, yet again. These disgusting degenerates mistakenly fucked with the wrong person, because you are now a warrior, and your powers amaze us all.

      May we dance on his grave with you. And may we all do a dance right now in testament to you.

    13. Hi SDW,

      Unfortunately I can relate. I’m glad that you are reaching this level of release from going through this. It is obvious you are doing some incredible healing work. You have a lot to be proud of in this. Good and healing thoughts to you.


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