A stabbing is the penetration of a sharp or pointed object at close range. Stab connotes purposeful action, as by an assassin or murderer, but it is also possible to accidentally stab oneself or others, although such stabbings are rarely serious and still more rarely fatal. Stabbing differs from slashing or cutting in that the motion of the object used in a stabbing generally moves perpendicular to and directly into the victim's body, rather than being drawn across it.

Death from stabbing is caused by shock, severe blood loss, infection, or loss of functioning of an essential organ such as the heart or lungs.

The human skin has a somewhat elastic property as a self-defense; when the human body is stabbed by a thin object such as a kitchen knife, the skin often closes tightly around the object and closes again if the object is removed, which can trap some blood within the body. Some have speculated that the fuller, an elongated concave depression in a metal blade, functions to let blood out of the body in order to cause more damage. This misconception has led to fullers becoming widely known as "blood grooves", and may have caused them to be added to some short weapons, where they serve no purpose. However, internal bleeding is just as dangerous as external bleeding; if enough blood vessels are severed to cause serious injury, the skin's elasticity will do nothing to prevent blood from exiting the circulatory system and accumulating uselessly in other parts of the body.

Stabbings have been common throughout human history, and were the means used to assassinate a number of distinguished historical figures, such as Julius Caesar and the Roman Emperor Nero. Stabbings today are common among gangs and in prisons because knives are cheap, easy to acquire (or manufacture), and highly concealable. The threat of stabbing is perhaps the most common form of robbery. The stabbing method of choice for today's street gang member is the "juke," in which the stabbing weapon is inserted into the victim (usually in a soft area like the abdomen), turned, and withdrawn, which produces a semi-circular wound.

Stabbings are the most common form of murder in Britain, where firearms — except certain shotguns and sporting rifles — are outlawed.

Of the 839 homicides in England and Wales in 2005, 29% involved sharp instruments including knives, blades and swords. Firearms account for just 9% of murders in Britain. The murder rate in Britain is 15 per million people.

The US murder rate is 55 per million, according to the FBI. Of those, 70% of murders were committed with firearms; just 14% involved knives or cutting instruments.

In London alone, there were 12,589 knife-related crimes in 2007. Police say the most likely people to carry knives are males ages 15 to 18.

The historical practice of stabbing oneself deliberately in ritual suicide is known as seppuku (more colloquiallyhara-kiri- literally "belly-cutting" since it involves cutting open the abdomen). The ritual is very highly codified and the person committing suicide is assisted by a "second" who is entrusted to decapitate them cleanly (and thus expediate death and prevent an undignified spectacle) once they have made the abdomenal wound.

Commonly used weapons or objects for stabbing purposes

Objects common in accidental stabbings

  • Glass, such as in a window through which the victim accidentally walks or falls
  • Rebar and other metal construction materials
  • Nails, which pierce the victim's foot
  • Drill bits
  • Fingernails and toenails (albeit with sharp nails)

See also


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