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What is abuse?

Abuse is something that is done to another person, without their full understanding or consent, that harms them in some way. It may consist of a single act or repeated acts. Abuse or neglect may be deliberate, or the result of negligence or ignorance. Unintentional abuse or neglect arises, for example, because pressures have built up and/or because of difficult or challenging behaviour which is not being properly addressed.

Abuse and neglect can take many forms. Abuse can include one or more of the following:

  • Physical abuse includes hitting, pinching, pushing, misuse of medication or physically restraining someone in an inappropriate way. For example, being locked in or force-fed.
  • Financial/material abuse includes theft, fraud, exploitation, coercion in relation to an adult’s financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits. For example, having money or property stolen, being pressured into giving people money or changing a will, misuse of benefits, not being allowed access to money.
  • Sexual abuse includes rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the adult has not consented and may not understand or was pressured into consenting. For example, being made to touch or kiss someone else, being made to listen to sexual comments or forced to look at sexual acts or materials.
  • Psychological abuse can happen where someone is isolated, verbally abused or threatened. It includes emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or supportive networks.
  • Discriminating abuse includes any type of abuse on grounds of race, gender and gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, religion, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment. For example, ignoring spiritual or religious beliefs, comments or jokes about a person's disability, age, race, sexual orientation, or gender / gender identity, ignoring cultural needs.
  • Exploitation includes unfairly manipulating someone for profit or personal gain; it can be either opportunistic or premeditated.
  • Neglect and acts of omission includes ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.
  • Institutional abuse can occur in a social or health care establishment such as a hospital or care home and includes from poor practice to neglect, ill treatment and gross misconduct. This may range from isolated incidents to continuing ill-treatment. For example, lack of individual care, no flexibility of bedtimes or waking, deprived environment and lack of stimulation.
  • Mate crime occurs when a person is harmed or taken advantage of by someone they thought was their friend.
  • Hate Incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone's prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender. Not all hate incidents will amount to criminal offences, but those that do become hate crimes.
Last updated: 8/11/2022