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Glossary of Forensic Nursing Terms

We introduce the "Glossary of Forensic Nursing Terms" in an effort to promote standardization of the specialty's medical-forensic language to enhance and promote consistency in practice, communication and patient safety. 

In the meanwhile, standby.....there is more to come!



Abandonment: willful desertion of an elderly (or vulnerable adult) person by a caregiver [4]

Adjudication: includes all formal and informal steps within the criminal process. [2]

Alien: term used in the Mann Act to denote foreign-born persons. [2]

Alzheimer disease: a slowly progressive disease of the brain characterized by impairment of memory and eventually by disturbances in reasoning, planning, language, and perception. [2]

Anger rapist: displaces his anger, rage, hatred onto a victim. [2]

Anti-Semitism: hostility toward or prejudice against Jews or Judaism. [2]


Battered woman syndrome: the effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) on victims. [2]

Battered woman syndrome defense: and extension of self-defense laws that appreciates battered women’s perceptions of risk and the possibility of escape. [2]

Blitz rape: sudden, out of the blue, physical attack. [2]

Bullying: a form of habitual aggressive behavior that is hurtful and deliberate. [2]

Burglary: unlawful entry of a residence, industry, or business, with or without force, with the intent to commit a larceny. [2]


Cause of death: the reason why a person died, such as from an injury or a disease process. [6]

Celebrity stalking: harassment of a well-known figure who generally does not know the stalker. [2]

Child maltreatment: describes the four types of child mistreatment: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. In many cases children are the victims of more than one type of abuse. The abusers can be parents or other family members, caretakers such as teachers and babysitters, acquaintances (including other children), and (in rare instances) strangers. [2]

Child pornography: obscene photographing, filming, or depiction of children for commercial purposes or for arousal of self, subject child, or viewing audience. [2]

Child prostitution: inducing or encouraging a child to engage in sex for financial or other gain. [2]

Child sexual exploitation on the internet:  use of internet to distribute or view child pornography. Use of the internet to contact children for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation. [2]

Child trafficking: abduction and sale of children. [2]

Civil justice system: a network of courts and legal processes that enforce, restore, or protect private and personal rights. [2]

Classic mass murder: one person operating in the one location at one period of time, which could be minutes or hours or even days. [2]

Classical criminology: a view that people have free will and the appropriate and timely punishment will deter crime. [2]

Clearances: closing of cases by law enforcement agencies within the UCR system either by arrest or by exceptional means.  [11]

Cleared by exceptional means: category of case closure in the UCR system when formal charges are not placed against an alleged offender, because the offender is either dead, a victim refuses to cooperate, or extradition is denied. [2]

Co-victim: immediate family, significant others, work associates, and close personal friends who had dealings with the deceased. [2]

Cognitively impaired: a brain disorder in which thinking abilities are impaired. [2]

Cold Case: a criminal investigation that had not been solved for at least 1 year and has been closed form further regular investigations. [2]

Complex posttraumatic stress disorder: reactions experienced by survivors of prolonged abuse, which includes symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and personality changes. [2]

Computer hacking: unauthorized use of an information system or network by circumventing or bypassing the security mechanisms. Illegally accessing other people’s computer systems for destroying, disrupting or carrying out illegal activities on the network or in computer systems. [2]

Conditional evidence: evidence observed at a scene which can be changed or moved over time (e.g. lights on or off, furniture moved, doors closed or open). [7]

Conditional threat: warns that a violent act will happen unless certain demands or terms are met. [2]

Copyright piracy: unauthorized use or sale of copyrighted material. [2]

Corporate victimization: classic white-collar crime involves personal gain at the expense of employers, the government, or clients (which can also be described as occupational crimes). [2]

Cost of victimization: health and medical costs, economic cost, and criminal justice costs. [2]

Credible threat: legal terms that indicates a clear threat that, to an outside observer, is a cause for concern of the safety of the victims. [2]

Crime victim: a person who had been directly and proximately harmed (physically, emotionally, or financially) as a result of the commission of an offense. [2]

Crime victims’ rights: eight rights included in Section 3771 of Title 18 of the U.A. Code, Crimes, and Criminal Procedure. [2]

Criminal charges: a formal accusation of having committed a criminal offence. [2]

Criminal law: concerned with actions that are harmful to society in which prosecution is pursued by the states, not he individual. [2]

Criminology: the study of the etiology of crime and the characteristics of the criminal. [2]

Critical criminology: combines an analysis of the state with the lived experience of victims. This model included radical, Marxist, and feminist approaches. [2]

Cyberbullying: bullying through means of e-mail, instant message, text messages, blogs, cell phones, pagers, and web sites with the goal of tormenting, threatening, harassing, humiliating, or embarrassing a person. [2]

Cybercrime: crime committed using the Internet. This broad term includes attacks causing electronic commerce sites to lose money, stealing a person’s identity, selling contraband, stalking victims, or disrupting operations using malevolent programs. [2]

Cyberstalking: use of the internet to stalk another person. [2]

Cyberterrorism: Any premeditated, politically motivated attack against electronic information or systems. The unauthorized use of computers and information technology to cause physical, real-world harm or severe disruption. [2] 


Dark figure of crime: term used by criminologists and sociologists to describe the amount of unreported or undiscovered crime. [2]

Defendant: a person or institution against whom an action is brought in a court of law; the person being sued or accused. [2]

Dementia: a conditional in which mem or loss has progressed to such a point that normal independent functioning is impossible and affected individuals can no longer successfully manage their finances or provide for their own basic needed. [2]

Developmental disability: a cognitive, emotional, or physical impairment, especially one related to abnormal sensory or motor development, that appears in infancy or childhood and involves a failure or delay in progressing through the normal developmental stages of childhood. [2]

Developmental traumatology: the systemic investigation of the psychiatric and psychobiological impact of overwhelming and chronic interpersonal violence on the developing child. This relatively new area of study synthesizes knowledge from an array of scientific fields, including developmental psychopathology, developmental neuroscience, and stress and trauma research. [2]

Direct threat: identifies a specific act against a specific target. [2]

Disclosure: a child telling that someone has abused or hurt him or her. This can be very difficult, and how the professional/investigator responds can be critical for all facets of subsequent intrapsychic and interpersonal recovery. [2]

Domestic elder abuse: Mistreatment committed by a person who shares a special relationship with the elder (a spouse, sibling, child, friend or caregiver). [4]

Domestic violence: incidents of interspousal physical or emotional abuse perpetuated by one of the spouses upon the other spouse. [2]


Elder abuse: an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creaets a risk of harm to an older adult (physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or psychological, neglect, financial abuse or exploitation).  [14]

Elder Abuse Surveillance: Uniform Definitions and Recommended Core Data Elements: suggested definitions and recommended data to collect with the goal of obtaining accurate and reliable epidemiological estimates. [15]

Emotional neglect (or psychological neglect): purposeful interaction with the intent to inflict anguish, distress, or pain, including verbal assaults, insults, threats or humiliation. [4]

English common law: the traditional, unwritten law of England that forms the basis of modern statutes. [2]

Erotomania: A syndrome of delusional loving. [2]

Exploitation:  fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized or improper act or process that uses the resources of an individual for monetary or personal profit, gain or benefit of another. [15] 


Fetal abduction: kidnapping before a fetus born by the criminal removal of the fetus form the uterus of the pregnant mother. [2]

Fetal homicide: also call feticide; it is an act that causes the death of a fetus. [2]

Fetal rights: the rights of any unborn human feus, which is generally a developing human from roughly 8 weeks after conception to birth. [2]

Fiduciary: a business or person who may act for another with total trust, good faith, and honesty and who has the complete confidence and trust of that person. [2]

Financial abuse: also known as material exploitation or financial exploitation, which involves illegal or improper use of an elderly person’s money, funds, assets, or property, includes actions such as deceiving or forcing an elder to sign legal documents (e.g. wills), forging an elder’s signature on legal documents, misusing or stealing an elder’s possessions or money. [4]

Forensic epidemiology: the study of health problems resulting from suspicions or evidence of possible intentional acts or criminal behavior; utilization of epidemiological methods in support of ongoing criminal investigations. [8, 9]

Forensic nursing: The application of the nursing process to public or legal proceedings and the application of forensic health care in the scientific investigation of trauma and/or death related to abuse, violence, criminal activity, liability, and accidents. [2]

Forensic toxicology: subspecialty in which toxicological analysis is utilized to facilitate medical intervention, diagnosis or treatment and plays a role in the criminal justice system. [10]

Forensic victimology: an important tool for investigating and solving cold cases. [2]


Genocide: systematic murder of an entire political, cultural, or religious group. [2]

Grand jury: a jury convened to inquire into accusations of crime and to evaluate the grounds for indictments. [2]


Hate crime: criminal conduct motivated in whole or in part by a preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. [2]

Hate Speech: words used as weapons to ambush, terrorize, wound, humiliate, and degrade members of an identified group. [2]

Hierarchy rule: this rule requires counting only the highest offense and ignoring all others; it applies only to the crime reporting process and does not affect the number of charges for which the defendant may be prosecuted in the courts. [2]

Home invasion: Burglary of a dwelling while the residents are at home. [2]

Homicide: the intentional and sometimes unintentional or accidental killing of another person. [2]


Identity theft: use of a person’s identifying information, including name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. [2]

Incest: sexual intercourse with a descendent by blood or adoption. [2]

Incidence: crimes that take place during a particular period of time. [2]

Indirect threat: tends to be vague, unclear, and ambiguous. [2]

Infant abduction: kidnapping after the infant is born and is less than 6 months old, usually from a hospital, clinic, home or other location. [2]

Institutional abuse: mistreatment occurring in residential facilities (nursing home, assisted living facility, group home, board and care facility, foster home, etc..) and is usually perpetrated by someone with a legal or contractual obligation to provide some element of care or protection. [4]

Internet fraud: deception conducted through the internet for the purpose of financial gain. [2]

Intimate partner violence (IVP): any behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm by a current or former partner or spouse  [14]

Islamophobia: hostility toward or prejudice against Muslims. [2]


Just World Theory: tendency of people to attribute blame to victims of crime to retain a sense that the world is safe. [2]



Larceny (or theft): unlawful taking (or attempted taking) of property other than a motor vehicle from the possession of another by stealth with intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property [2]

Learned helplessness: a cognitive state in which a victim no longer believes that any action can change an aversive situation. [2]

Lifestyle routine activities theory: Certain personal characteristics and lifestyle activities increase or decrease an individual’s risk of victimization. [2]


Mail fraud: willful use of the national mail services to defraud or obtain money or property by means of false pretenses, representations, or promises. [2]

Manner of death: the category in which the death falls, determined from the autopsy examination, scene investigation, police reports and postmortem laboratory studies. (natural, homicide, su8icide, accident, undetermined). [6]

Marital rape: nonconsensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. [2]

Medically fragile: individuals who have medically intensive needs that usually result in chronic health-related dependence. [2]

Mechanism of injury: method by which trauma to the skin, muscles, organs and bones occur, how much force was applied and to what part of the body (vehicle-pedestrian collision, ejection from vehicle, fall)

Mistreatment: intentional actions that cause harm or create serious risk of harm, intended or not, to a vulnerable person by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship; failure by a caregiver to satisfy the basic needs of a vulnerable person. [15]

Munchausen syndrome: a disorder in which a person presents repeatedly to hospitals with symptoms and sign (often simulated) suggestive of a serious illness.  [12]

Murder: a subcategory of homicide, which also includes lawful taking of human life. [2]


National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS): a series of surveys, previously called the National Crime Survey, which collect data on personal and household victimization since 1973.

National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS): a more delated version of the Uniform Crime Reporting program (UCR). [2]

National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA): established in 1975 as a victim services, developing new programs, and supporting passage of victims’ rights legislation. [2]

Neglect:  failure or refusal of the caregiver to provide necessities, such as shelter, food, water, clothing, personal hygiene, medicine, access to medical care or a safe environment [4]

Nursing: the diagnosis and treatment of human responses to actual or potential health problems. [1]


Obsessional harassment: harassment causing fear that originated from the obsession of one individual with another individual who is uninterested in the relationship. [2]


Pattern evidence: evidence seen in bloodstains, injuries, gunshot patterns showing pattern. [7]

Peace bond: an order from a criminal court that restrains one person from bothering or threatening another. [2]

Physical abuse: use of physical force that results in pain or injury: slapping, hitting, biting, kicking, pushing, shoving, shaking, pinching, burning, striking with an object; also includes inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force feeding, or using physical punishment. [4]

Physical bullying: Pushing, hitting, tripping, spitting at, and physical beating. [2]

Positivistic: Derives knowledge from the scientific method. [2]

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): an anxiety disorder that develops in some individuals who have had a major traumatic experience. PTSD is characterized by intrusive thoughts and images and heightened arousal. [2]

Power of attorney: authority granted by one person to another to empower the grantee to make financial and health care decisions on the grantor’s behalf. [2]

Prevalence: How many people experience a particular crime during their lifetime.

Pretrial:  conference held before the trial begins to bring the parties together to outline discovery proceedings and to define the issues. [2]

Primary victimization: affects the targeted or personalized victim. [2]

Property crime: offenses including burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. The object of theft-type of offenses is taking of money or property, without force or threat of force against the victim. [11]

Protection order: an order made when the court makes a final decision and is satisfied that domestic and family violence has occurred and is likely to occur again. [2]

Psychiatric gating: Where a sexually violent person is certified under provincial mental health legislation and sent to any hospital. [2]

Psychological abuse: a pattern of behavior when an individual attempt to dehumanize or intimidate through verbal or nonverbal acts (insulting, continuous criticism, threats to harm, damaging property, blaming, gas lighting, punishing). [2]




Racial profiling: any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security, or public protection that relies on stereotypes about race, color, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, or place of origin (or a combination of these) rather than on reasonable suspicion to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment. [2]

Rape: penetration, however slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without consent. [11]

Recidivism: the repeating of crimes by the offender. [2]

Restraining order: an order issued after the aggrieved party appears before a judge that tells one person to stop harassing or harming another person. [2]

Robbery: unlawful taking or attempted taking of property that is in the immediate possession of another by force or threat of force. [2]


School dynamics: patterns of behavior, thinking, beliefs, customs, traditions, roles, and values that exist in a school’s culture. [2]

Secondary victimization: affects impersonal victims, such as commercial establishments, churches, schools, and public transportation. [2]

Self-neglect: inability of an elder person, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care tasks that threatens his or her own safety or health. [15]

Serial murder: two or more separate events in three or more separate locations with an emotional cooling-off period between homicides. [2]

Sexual assault: any sexual act, attempt to obtain and sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion. [1,2]

Sexual coercion: Unwanted intercourse or any other sexual contact subsequent to the use of menacing verbal pressure or misuse of authority. [2]

Sexual sadist: An offender who finds pleasure and excitement in the suffering of his/her victim. [2]

Sexually violent predator: any person who has been convicted of or charged with a crime of sexual violence and who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility. [2]

Social bullying: rumors and behaviors aimed at deliberate social exclusion. [2]

Spiritualistic theories: Attribute victimization to the acts of gods, demons, cosmic forces, and other supernatural forces. [2]

Spree murder: A single event with two or more locations and no emotional cooling-off period between murders. [2]

Stalking: any form of harassment that causes the person being harassed to have a reasonable fear for his or her safety. [2]

Standard: authoritative statement enunciated and promogulated by the profession by which the quality of practice, service, or education can be judged. [1]

Standards of care: authoritative statements that describe a competent level of forensic nursing practice demonstrated through assessment, diagnosis, outcome identification, planning, implementation, and evaluation as appropriate to the practice setting. [1]

Standards of forensic nursing practice: Authoritative statement that describe a level of service or performance common to the profession of forensic nursing by which the quality of forensic nursing practice can be judged. Standards of practice include both standards of care are standards of professional practice. [1]

Standards of professional performance: authoritative statesmen’s that describe a competent level of behavior in the progression role, including, activities related to quality of service, performance appraisal, education, collegiality, ethics, collaboration, research, and resource utilization. [1]

Stockholm syndrome: Dramatic and unexpected realignment of affection to the protective bond between hostage and captor and to the feelings of distrust and hospitality on the part of the victim toward authority. [2]

Statutory rape: a generic term that refers to nonforcible sexual activity with a person under the age of consent and by and adult age 18 years or older. [2]

Strangulation:  the obstruction of blood vessels and/or airflow in the neck resulting in asphyxia. [13]

Suicide bomber: the targeted use of self-destructing human beings against civilians. [2]


Telephone hacking:  illegal access to a telephone network for free phone calls or to obtain personal information. [2]

Terrorism: systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. [2]

Theft: taking of a person’s property without the permission of the property owner or possessor of that property. [2]

Tertiary victimization: diffuse and extends to the community at large. [2]

Testimonial evidence: statements made under oath, in court by a witness and direct evidence (eyewitness accounts, medical documentation made while caring for a patient in a clinical setting). [7]

Third-party liability: responsibility held by a person or organization that did not commit the offense but may have contributed to or facilitated the offense. [2]

Threat: expression of intent to do harm or to act out violently against someone or something. [2]

Throwaways: children who have been told to leave the household, are refused reentry into their home after running away, are not sought by parents or others when they run away or are abandoned or deserted. [2]

Trauma informed care: framework that uses empowerment and a strength-based model to respond to the effects of trauma on an individual; a framework that analyzes the effect of the environment of trauma survivors and guides the response of the organizations and individuals providing care in the organization. [5]

Transfer evidence: evidence that results from two surfaces coming in contact with each other (blood from one person left on another person, fibers from one person’s clothing left on a victim). [7]

Transient evidence: physical evidence which is temporary in nature and can be lost, changed, degraded (e.g. odor, moisture, temperature, imprints). [7]

Traumatic grief: grief associated with traumatic loss, such as murder. [2]


Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR): report published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the number of violent crimes and property crimes reported to law enforcement, and the data regarding clearance of these offenses.  Expanded data collected by the FBI includes auxiliary information (time of day) as well as trends in crime volume and crime rate per 100,00 inhabitants  Expanded homicide data  includes information about weapon use, victims, offenders and circumstances surrounding homicides.  [11]


Veiled threat: strongly implies but does not explicitly threaten violence. [2]

Verbal bullying: taunts, threats, name calling, and derogatory comments. [2]

Victim: the person that is acted upon and usually adversely affected by and outside incident. In forensic nursing, the victim may be the client, the decedent, or perpetrator, the family, significant others, the suspect, the accused and/or falsely accused, the community and/or the public in general. [1, 2]

Victim impact statement: a statement given by the victim(s) that details how the crime has affected him or her. [2]

Victimology: the study of the victim from a social-structured way of viewing crime and the law and the criminal and the victim. [2]

Victim’s information and notification everyday (VINE) program: enables victims of intimate partner violence to access court information. [2]

Victims of Crime Act (VOCA):  The VOCA Act established the crime victim’s fund that is supported by fines collected from persons who have been convicted of criminal offenses. [2]


White supremacist: a person who believes White people are racially superior to others and should therefore dominate society. [2]

Wife battering: assault against a woman by her husband. [2]


Xenophobia: Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. [2]


Youth gang: a self-formed association of peers who have in common some sense of identity, some degree of permanence and organization, and an elevated level of involvement in delinquent or criminal activity. [2]




1. American Nurses Association. (2009). Forensic Nursing: Scope & Standards of Practice. Silver Spring, MD:

2. Barnett, O. W., Miller-Perrin, C. L., & Perrin, R. D. (2011). Family violence across the lifespan (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA.

3. Lynch, V. A., & Duval, J. B. (2006). Forensic Nursing Science (2nd Ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

4. Department of Health and Human Services.  National Center on Elder Abuse. (2015). Types of abuse. Retrieved  9/17/2018 from

5. Hopper, E.K., Bassuk, E.L. & Oliver, J. (2010). Shelter from the storm: Trauma-informed care in homelessness services settings. The Open Health Services and Policy Journal, 3(2), 80-100.

6.   Mitchell, S.A., Drake, S.A. (2016). Death investigation. In A. Amar & L. K. Sekula (Eds.), A Practical Guide to Forensic Nursing: Incorporating Forensic Principles into Nursing Practice, (p. 247). Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta Tau International.

7.  Sekula, L.K. (2016). Forensic documentation and testimony. In A. Amar & L. K. Sekula (Eds.), A Practical Guide to Forensic Nursing: Incorporating Forensic Principles into Nursing Practice, (pp. 288- 290). Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta Tau International.

8.  Forensic epidemiology (2007). Kentucky Law Enforcement. Fall, (pp. 30-34).

9.  Koehler, S.A. & Brown, P.A. (2009). Foundations of Forensic Epidemiology: Medical Examiner/Coroner Perspective. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis Group/CRC Press.

10.  Kerrigan, S. & Goldberger, B.A. 2011. Forensic toxicology. In V. Lynch & Duval, J.B. (Eds.), Forensic Nursing Science (2nd ed.). St. Louis: Elsevier/Mosby Inc.

11. U.S. Department of Justice. (2013). Crime in the U.S. [Data file]. Retrieved from

12. Black’s Medical Dictionary. 43rd edition. (2013).  H  & C Black Publishers Ltd.

13. Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention. ( 2018). Retrieved from

14. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (20

15. Hall, J.E., Karch, D.L. & Crosby, A.E. (2016). Elder Abuse Surveillance: Uniform Definitions and Recommended Core Data Elements for Use in Elder Abuse Surveillance Version 1.0. Atlanta, GA:. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.