Safeguarding adults - what is abuse?

Abuse and neglect can be defined in many ways: 

  • When someone does or says things that hurt you or make you feel upset or frightened
  • Abuse happens when someone has power over you and you do not agree to what is happening to you
  • Abuse can be something that happens once or repeatedly
  • Abuse is a crime

Abuse can include:

  • Physical abuse - including hitting, slapping, pushing, restraint and the use of inappropriate sanctions
  • Domestic abuse - any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive , threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 years or over who are, or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality
  • Sexual abuse - including rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, sexual assault, inappropriate looking or touching and sexual acts to which the adult has not consented or was pressured into consenting
  • Psychological / emotional abuse - includes threats of harm, deprivation of contact, humiliation, harassment, blaming , bullying, isolation and unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or support networks
  • Financial or material abuse - includes theft, fraud, internet scamming, and coercion in relation to an adult's financial affairs or arrangements
  • Neglect or acts of omission - includes ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services
  • Modern slavery - this includes human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude. Most victims are deceived and forced into a life of abuse and inhumane treatment
  • Discriminatory abuse - includes forms of harassment, slurs or other similar treatment because of race, gender and gender identify, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion
  • Organisational abuse - includes poor care practice within an organisation or specific care setting such as a hospital or care home and poor practice in relation to care provided in one's own home
  • Self-neglect - covers a wide range of behaviour such as hoarding, neglecting to care for one's personal hygiene, health or surroundings 

Abuse can happen anywhere - in your own home, in a care home, in a hospital, at work etc. It can be deliberate, or the result of ignorance or a lack of proper training. 

Whatever the type of abuse, and wherever it happens, it is not acceptable. 

Who are 'adults at risk' of abuse or neglect?

An adult at risk may be a person who is/has:

  • Elderly and frail due to ill health
  • Learning disabilities
  • Physical disabilities and / or a sensory impairment
  • Mental health needs including dementia or personality disorder
  • Long -term illnesses /or conditions
  • Misuses substances or alcohol
  • Unable to make their own decisions and is in need of care and support
  • A young adult, over the age of 18, who has care and support needs and is 'in transition' from children's to adults' services
  • carer (looking after another person with care and support needs)

This list is not exhaustive - other people not on this list might also be considered to be adults at risk.

Occasionally, people might have difficulty making decisions for themselves. Find out how people who have difficulty making decisions can be helped. 

Who is responsible for abuse?

Anyone can be responsible for the abuse of another person, often they can be well known to the person being mistreated or exploited. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse or neglect

If you think that you or someone you know is being subjected to abuse then find out how to report abuse:

Report abuse

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