What is adult abuse?

Abuse is when someone does or says things to another person to hurt, upset or make them frightened.

Adult abuse is wrong and can happen to anyone who is over 18 years of age.

Abuse can happen anywhere and can be committed by anyone.

Who is at risk?

Adult abuse can happen to anyone aged over 18.

Some adults find it harder to get help and may be more at risk of harm and exploitation such as those with:

  • a disability
  • a mental health condition
  • a temporary or long term illness

Other adults at risk can be frail older people or carers such as partners, relatives or friends; they can also get help if they are being abused.

Abuse can happen in many different ways. Here are some examples:

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is causing physical pain, injury or suffering to someone else.

Some examples of physical abuse include:

  • hitting
  • slapping
  • pushing
  • kicking
  • burning
  • not giving someone their medication, or too much medication or the wrong medication
  • the use of illegal restraint for example, where someone holds another person by forcing them down
  • inappropriate physical sanctions like locking someone up in a room or tying them to furniture

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when someone does sexual things to another person who does not want it happening to them or may not understand what’s happening.

Some examples of sexual abuse include:

  • forcing someone to have sex against their will, which is known as rape
  • sexual assault
  • touching
  • making sexual remarks
  • making someone take part in sexual acts, like made to watch sexual activity or films
  • sexual exploitation

Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse is also known as emotional abuse. This is when someone says and does bad things to upset and hurt someone else.

Some examples of psychological abuse include:

  • humiliating
  • blaming
  • controlling
  • intimidating
  • harassing
  • verbal abuse
  • bullying and cyber bullying
  • isolating
  • threatening to harm or abandon (leave someone in need)
  • coercion
  • stopping someone from seeing other people eg their friends and family
  • stopping someone from having access to services or support

Financial and material abuse

Financial and material abuse is when someone takes someone’s money or things without asking.

Some examples of financial and material abuse include:

Neglect and acts of omission

Neglect is when someone says they are going to help someone by giving them care and support but they do not.

Acts of omission is when someone ignores situations when someone else is being neglected.

Some examples of neglect include:  

  • leaving someone alone for a long time
  • ignoring medical or physical care needs
  • failing to provide access to the right health or social care services
  • withholding medication, not giving adequate nutrition or heating

Organisational abuse

Organisational abuse is when any form of abuse is caused by an organisation. It can include neglect and poor practice within a specific care setting such as a hospital or care home, or where care is given to someone in their own home.

Self-neglect

Self-neglect is when someone does not take care of themselves properly. This can put their safety, health and well-being in danger.

Some examples include when someone:

  • does not keep clean
  • does not look after their own health
  • does not clean where they live
  • lives in hoarding conditions by keeping lots of things around them

Self-neglect may happen because a person is unable or unwilling (or both) to manage to care for them self or their home.

Sometimes some people choose to live like this.

It is important their rights are supported if they have the mental capacity to make the decision.

Discriminatory abuse

Discriminatory abuse is when someone says or does bad things to someone else because they are different to them.

People are treated unfairly because of their:

Some examples of discrimination include: 

Mate crime

Mate crime is a form of disability hate crime.

It happens when someone pretends to be a friend and then uses, manipulates or abuses the person.

Domestic violence and abuse

Domestic violence and abuse happens between people in relationships or family members. It is a pattern of behaviour which involves violence or other abuse by one person against another.

Examples of domestic violence and abuse include:

Modern slavery

Modern Slavery is slavery that happens today. Slavery is when someone is forced to work or do other things they do not want to.

It is a growing problem that can happen to men, women and children. People are treated like slaves; they are forced and tricked into a life of abuse.

It is treating people in an inhumane way. This means when someone is cruel, does not have compassion and they can make people suffer.

Modern Slavery can take many forms and some examples include:

  • trafficking people where the traffickers are the slave masters
  • forcing someone to work, they can be made to work for free in a shop, in a factory or even sell sex 
  • forcing someone to be a domestic slave and not letting people have their own life

Who might be an abuser?

Anyone might be responsible for abuse, for example:

  • a partner, relative or family member 
  • a friend 
  • an organisation, a paid carer or volunteer 
  • another service user 
  • a neighbour 
  • a stranger

Where does abuse happen?

Abuse can happen anywhere, for example:

  • in a person’s own home 
  • in the street 
  • in a care home 
  • in a day centre or hospital.

Is abuse a crime?

Yes, abuse is a crime. For example:

If you think a crime has been committed contact the police. If you are not sure if it is a crime, contact one of the other organisations that can help.

What is Safeguarding?

Safeguarding is about protecting people from abuse, preventing abuse from happening and making people aware of their rights.

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