Defensive wounds are any type of injuries that result from an attempt, or repeated attempts, to defend against an assailant using such sharp edged weapons as knives or blunted instruments such as fists and clubs. Such wounds are usually deeply indented stab wounds, but can be either blunt or sharp in nature. Violent crimes involving defensive wounds can include criminal homicides, rapes, and robberies. Although defensive wounds can appear anywhere on the victim's body, they are generally found on the upper extremities of the human body including the back of the hands, the inside of the palms, and the inner side of the forearms. The different positioning and angles of the wounds indicate to the forensic examiner the exact way that the victim was trying to ward off and protect themselves against the attack.
In many cases, the victim will hold up hands and forearms in front of the body in a defensive, posturing position in order to protect the face and chest from injury during the assault inflicted by the perpetrator. In such a case, the victim may receive lacerations on the forearm when an assailant uses a sharp weapon such as a knife or multiple groupings of abrasions and bruises to both hands and forearms when fists or other blunt objects are used during the attack.
In a stabbing case, for example, slashing wounds on the hands of the victim may indicate that the victim grabbed the knife during the struggle only to have it pulled back by the assailant, thus inflicting more injuries to the victim. These wounds will usually be deep and focused around the palms and the undersurface of the fingers. Superficial cut and stab wounds to the back of the head, neck, and scalp, which are delivered at appropriate angles and positions with respect to both people, are indicative that the victim turned away from the attacker. In another example, a shotgun attack may show the presence of small, round pellets lodged within the hands or fore-arms of a victim, once again showing the victim was attempting to protect vital parts of the body against injury.
see also Knife wounds.