AbstractSummary Forensic medicine and forensic pathology are rarely taught at undergraduate level in medical schools in the UK. Student Selected Components (SSCs) offer a means by which subjects that are ‘beyond the core’ can be explored, and this article describes one such SSC in forensic pathology in which students explored ‘the language of trauma’ relevant to safeguarding vulnerable patients. Relevance Medical students will be exposed to injured patients in whichever setting they practice medicine, be it in the community or in secondary care settings. Being able to identify and assess wounds and injuries, and their distribution on their patients, is essential not only for patient management purposes, but also for meeting safeguarding needs. Take home messages Although most medical students will not become forensic physicians or forensic pathologists, all doctors have an important safeguarding role, requiring them to be able to identify and assess wounds and injuries suggestive of assault. An SSC that emphasises the forensic assessment of wounds and injuries provides a useful way in which medical students can learn ‘the language of trauma’ relevant to their future clinical practice.