What is abuse?

The broad definition of an adult at risk: “A person who is 18 years of age or over, and who may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who is or may be unable to take care of himself, or unable to protect himself against significant harm or serious exploitation.”

Adult abuse is when a person is treated in a bad way or in a way that makes them feel frightened or unhappy, is harmed, hurt or exploited – particularly by someone they know or should be able to trust.  The abuse can vary from treating someone with disrespect in a way which significantly affects the person’s quality of life, to causing actual physical suffering.

Forms of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse such as hitting, pushing, pinching, shaking, misusing medication, scalding, hair pulling
  • Sexual abuse such as forcing someone into unwanted sexual activity, being touched inappropriately, rape, sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the vulnerable adult has not or could not have consented, or to which they were put under pressure into consenting
  • Psychological or emotional abuse such as intimidation, being threatened, being ignored on purpose, humiliation, blaming, controlling, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, being prevented from friends or family visiting or being prevented from receiving services or support.
  • Financial abuse such as stealing someone’s money or spending it on the wrong things, putting pressure on someone to make changes to their will or spend their money against their wishes, fraud or exploitation, pressure in connection with property, inheritance, misuse of property, possessions or benefits.
  • Neglect such as ignoring medical or physical care needs, preventing access to health, social care or educational services, not caring for someone properly, not providing adequate food, putting them at risk.

Any of these forms of abuse can be either deliberate or be the result of ignorance, or lack of training, knowledge or understanding. It is often the case that a person is being abused in more than one way.

Who might be causing the abuse?

Adults at risk may be abused by a wide range of people including relatives and family members, professional staff, paid care workers, other adults at risk, volunteers, other service users, neighbours, friends, and associates, people who deliberately exploit vulnerable people, strangers and opportunistic people.

The person who is responsible for the abuse could be anybody.


Where does the abuse take place?

Abuse can happen anywhere – in a residential or nursing home, a hospital, in the workplace, at a day centre or educational establishment, in supported housing, in the street or in the vulnerable adult’s own home.  Abuse can be the result of a single act or may continue over months or years.

Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence should not happen to anybody.  Ever.  But it does – and when it does, there is help.

If you suspect a person is at immediate risk of harm call 999 and speak to the Police.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence, have experienced domestic abuse or sexual violence, or are worried about a friend or relative who is experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence you can get help by contacting the  Live Fear Free helpline. It is a confidential, free phone support and information service for anyone experiencing domestic or sexual abuse or wanting more information on available support service and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on Freephone 0808 80 10 800