Scratches as Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases


.....When I asked *Mika whether she had called the police before she told me that she was afraid to. "When he went to the mirror and ra...

.....When I asked *Mika whether she had called the police before she told me that she was afraid to.

"When he went to the mirror and ran up to me to show me each scratch, every single one, I was embarrassed and ashamed.  
I couldn't call the police for help and let them see what I had done. I could not let anyone see that. I had hurt him.

It took me a long time to even consider that I only hurt him because he was strangling the breath out of me. Why was I embarrassed? He did not even care that I saw how he hurt me."

Former advocacy client of Tonya GJ Prince

I don't like misinformation about domestic violence for a number of reasons.  When it comes to fighting back and resulting "self-defense" injuries like scratches.

Some women have avoided calling for life-saving help because they fought back.  It is not uncommon for a violent, combative, and aggressive male to beat a woman brutally and then threaten to tell everyone that she was the primary aggressor because he has scrathes. 

Typically these scratches are around the face, neck, arm and hands.  They usually come from a woman scratching her attacker in the hopes of getting him to stop.  This happens a lot in strangulation cases. 

A woman being choked can't breathe and she reaches out to scratch her assailant.  She wants him to stop so that she can breathe. She wants him to stop so that she can live. 


As we strive to understand and support survivors, it becomes vital to recognize the significance of defensive wounds and the stories they silently tell.   The wisdom and knowledge of women who survived abuse are a major source of the body knowledge around self-defense wounds that we have today. #Gratitude 

Today, most law enforcement are trained to observe and distinguish self-defense injuries.

When confronted with the aftermath of an abusive altercation, keen observers can decipher the narrative etched onto the victim's hands, arms, or face. Defensive wounds, denoted by their distinct location and pattern, empower survivors by revealing their courageous endeavors to protect themselves and escape harm's way.

Though the presence of scratches alone may be insufficient evidence to prove self-defense, scratches can be seen as evidence of self-defense in domestic violence cases.  Particularly if they are consistent with the victim's explanation of defending themselves against an aggressor. 

 Courts and law enforcement consider multiple factors when determining whether self-defense was justified, including the nature of the scratches, the intensity of the attack, the history of violence between the parties involved, and any other evidence or eyewitness testimonies available.

 Scratches may be considered evidence of self-defense if they are consistent with the victim's account of the incident, describing a situation where they had to physically resist or protect themselves from harm.

Position of the scratches
The location and pattern of the scratches can provide clues about the dynamics of the altercation. Defensive wounds that are primarily found on the victim's hands, arms, or face may support a self-defense claim.

Lack of other injuries
 If one party has visible injuries, such as bruising, swelling, or more severe wounds, it may raise questions about the necessity of self-defense and the disproportionate use of force.

Accounts of witnesses
 Testimonies from witnesses who observed the altercation or heard conversations related to self-defense can corroborate the victim's claim.

Pattern of abuse
The history of violence in the relationship can also play a role in evaluating self-defense claims. If there is a documented pattern of abuse, it may support the victim's narrative that they were acting in self-defense to avoid further harm.

Timeline and self-defense claim consistency
The victim's account must be consistent with the timeline of events and any other evidence available. Any discrepancies or contradictions can weaken a self-defense claim.

In society's pursuit of justice, investigations involving domestic violence demand a meticulous interpretation and understanding of the defensive wounds presented. For victims, this evidence serves as a lifeline, validating their experiences and empowering them to reclaim their lives. 

By acknowledging and comprehending the language of wounds, we pave the way for survivors to find solace and confidence in their voices, knowing that their truth will be heard.

It is important to consult with legal professionals, such as lawyers or victim advocates, who can provide specific advice and guidance tailored to individual cases and jurisdictions. 

The laws around violence and abuse change often. Judicial, law enforcement, and prosecutorial bias all play a major role in these cases.   People with expertise and knowledge can help gather necessary evidence, document injuries, and help victims navigate the legal process.


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WE Survive Abuse : Scratches as Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases
Scratches as Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases
WE Survive Abuse
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