What is Abuse?

Abuse is any behaviour towards a person that deliberately or unknowingly causes harm or abuse. If an adult is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect it should not be ignored, recognising it and reporting it, is essential to prevent and protect adults from further abuse.

Recognise it:

Abuse can happen in a number of ways. It can be:

  • Physical - for example: assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate physical interventions;
  • Sexual - for example: rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking or touching, sexual photography, or any unwanted sexual behaviours or exposure to sexual acts, where the person has not consented or were pressured into consenting which can include sexual exploitation.
  • Psychological/Emotional - for example: threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, being humiliated, being blamed, being controlled, being afraid or being devalued by others.  Anything said or written which causes upset, fear or anxiety including intimidation.
  • Neglect - for example:  failure to provide access to appropriate health care, ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs, or withholding the necessities of life such as medication, adequate nutrition or heating.
  • Discriminatory - for example, harassment, slurs or similar treatment because of race, religion or belief, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, age or disability, for example, where a person may be targeted because of their disability, and become a victim of a hate crime or incident.
  • Organisational - for example, neglect or poor care practice within an institution or specific care setting, or in relation to care provided in a persons own home. It can be through neglect, or poor professional practice as a result of the structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation this could be for example, inflexible routines or regimes.
  • Financial - for example, where there has been theft, fraud, internet scamming, coercion into an adult's financial affairs including in connection with wills, property inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of money, property, possessions or benefits.
  • Domestic Violence and Abuse - can take many forms and can include a range of types of abuse (see above) but can also include so called 'honour based violence'.
  • Modern Slavery - includes slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude. This can involve deceiving and forcing individuals into a life of abuse, servitude, and inhumane treatment.
  • Self-Neglect - this covers a wide range of behaviour, neglecting to care for one's personal hygiene, health or surroundings and can include behaviour such as hoarding.

There is no easy way to detect signs of abuse. It may result in a number of changes in the way the person acts or looks. 

Who can harm or abuse?

Anyone can harm or abuse - a partner, friend or family member, or people in positions of trust such as staff or volunteers. The person(s) causing harm or abuse may be known to the adult being harmed, but they could also be a stranger.

Where does harm or abuse happen?

Abuse can happen anywhere, for example at home, work, college, in care settings, in hospitals or other health settings, or in public places.

What should you do?

If you know or think someone is being abused or you are being abused, you should tell someone. Everyone has a responsibility to keep people safe. Tell someone you can trust or report your concern to Adult Social Care.