Defense wound

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A defense wound or self-defense wound is an injury received by the victim of an attack while trying to defend against the assailant.[1][2] Defensive wounds are often found on the hands and forearms, where the victim has raised them to protect the head and face or to fend off an assault, but may also be present on the feet and legs where a victim attempts defense while lying down and kicking out at the assailant.[3][4][5]

The appearance and nature of the wound varies with the type of weapon used and the location of the injury, and may present as a laceration, abrasion, contusion or bone fracture.[6][7] Where a victim has time to raise hands or arms before being shot by an assailant, the injury may also present as a gunshot wound.[4] Severe laceration of the palmar surface of the hand or partial amputation of fingers may result from the victim grasping the blade of a weapon during an attack.[8] In forensic pathology the presence of defense wounds is highly indicative of homicide and also proves that the victim was, at least initially, conscious and able to offer some resistance during the attack.[9][10][11]

Defense wounds may be classified as active or passive. A victim of a knife attack, for example, would receive active defense wounds from grasping at the knife's blade, and passive defense wounds on the back of the hand if it was raised up to protect the face.[1][10]


  1. ^ a b Miletich, John J.; Lindstrom, Tia Laura (2010). An introduction to the work of a medical examiner: From death scene to autopsy suite. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-275-99508-9.
  2. ^ Fisher, Barry A. J. (2004). Techniques of crime scene investigation. Boca Raton: CRC Press. p. 518. ISBN 978-0-8493-1691-3.
  3. ^ Adelson, Lester (1974). The Pathology of Homicide: A Vade Mecum for Pathologist, Prosecutor and Defense Counsel. Springfield: Charles C. Thomas. p. 490. ISBN 978-0-398-03000-1.
  4. ^ a b Gunn, Alan (2009). Essential forensic biology. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-470-75804-5.
  5. ^ Brown, Kathleen M.; Muscari, Mary E. (2010). Quick Reference to Adult and Older Adult Forensics: A Guide for Nurses and Other Health Care Professionals. New York: Springer Science+Business Media. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-8261-2422-7.
  6. ^ Cheng, Liang; Bostwick, David G., eds. (2002). Essentials of anatomic pathology. Totowa: Humana Press. p. 5/21. ISBN 978-1-58829-118-9.
  7. ^ Geberth, Vernon J. (2006). Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques. Boca Raton: CRC Press. p. 954. ISBN 978-0-8493-3303-3.
  8. ^ Bell, Suzanne (2008). Encyclopedia of Forensic Science. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 363. ISBN 978-0-8160-6799-2.
  9. ^ Prahlow, Joseph (2010). Forensic Pathology for Police, Death Investigators, Attorneys, and Forensic Scientists. New York: Springer Science+Business Media. p. 391. ISBN 978-1-58829-975-8.
  10. ^ a b Tsokos, Michael (2006). Forensic Pathology Reviews. 4. Totowa: Humana Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 978-1-58829-601-6.
  11. ^ Jones, Richard (2010). "Patterns of sharp force trauma: Defence wounds". Forensic medicine for medical students. Retrieved 28 December 2011.