Monday, April 02, 2007

The nature of knife wounds

I recently took part in a personal protection seminar for women and I used the case of “Mike”, my wife’s former coworker, as an example of the true nature of knife wounds.

Mike surprised their male servant ransacking their home. The assailant killed Mike with 36 stab wounds. A lot of them were defensive, on this forearms, but the frightening number of wounds would naturally make the average person conclude that the attacker was either crazed by extreme hate toward Mike or was so stoned out of his gourd that he went into a demonic killing frenzy.

As far as I know, the attacker – who later gave up to the police – was neither. He was close to Mike and his family and wasn’t on drugs. So why stab someone so many times?

I think the answer lies in how people think of stab wounds. We naturally think of them as instantly fatal, which isn’t always the case. It matters more where you get stabbed, not how many times you got wounded. A series of stabs that avoid arteries and major organs will do damage and will case shock and pain but it won’t be instantly fatal.

The wounds have to– as Kuya Doug of Rochester Kali puts it – “hit the body’s plumbing”. Hitting a major artery is more or less a fatal hit, and I’m not going to discuss precisely where these spots are on the body. As they say, a little knowledge can be dangerous. Suffice to say getting a major artery cut is serious. But people have recovered from them, if they get to a hospital emergency room in time. Unless you hit the body’s “main switches” (which will turn off the lights very quickly), the person stabbed has a chance to survive the attack.

Mike’s attacker obviously didn’t want him to live, choosing to add murder to a robbery charge. Understanding the nature of stab wounds, it’s now apparent that Mike’s killer kept stabbing until he got the result he wanted: Mike’s death. The first 5 stab wounds might not have dropped Mike and more were needed. Unfortunately for Mike, none of his first wounds were instantly fatal.

Mike’s death is more than an academic topic for me. I met him and he was a good friend of my wife. It’s tempting to go through the whole “what-ifs” on how he should have defended himself but that would be unfair to him. But I can use his example to teach people the nature of violence, and hopefully save lives.