What is abuse? | Salford Safeguarding Adults Board

What is abuse?

Abuse is a violation of someone's human and civil rights by another person or group of people.

The person causing harm may be known to the person suffering abuse.  They could be a friend, a relative or a neighbour. They may be in a position of trust and power. They may be a professional in healthcare, social care or education.

Abuse can happen anywhere, including at home or in public places.  It can be a single incident or repeated acts of abuse and neglect.

There is more information below on different types of abuse.



Examples of physical abuse

  • Assault, hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, hair-pulling, biting, pushing
  • Rough handling
  • Scalding and burning
  • Physical punishments
  • Inappropriate or unlawful use of restraint
  • Making someone purposefully uncomfortable (e.g. opening a window and removing blankets)
  • Isolating them or confining them
  • Misuse of medication/drugs (e.g. over-sedation)
  • Forcible feeding or withholding food
  • Unauthorised restraint, restricting movement (e.g. tying someone to a chair)

Possible indicators of physical abuse

  • No explanation for injuries or inconsistency with the account of what happened
  • Injuries are inconsistent with the person’s lifestyle
  • Bruising, cuts, welts, burns and/or marks on the body or loss of hair in clumps
  • Frequent injuries
  • Unexplained falls
  • Subdued or changed behaviour in the presence of a particular person
  • Signs of malnutrition
  • Failure to seek medical treatment or frequent changes of GP

Types of financial or material abuse

  • Theft of money or possessions
  • Fraud, scamming
  • Preventing a person from accessing their own money, benefits or assets
  • Employees taking a loan from a person using the service
  • Undue pressure, duress, threat or undue influence put on the person in connection with loans, wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions
  • Arranging less care than is needed to save money to maximise inheritance
  • Denying assistance to manage/monitor financial affairs
  • Denying assistance to access benefits
  • Misuse of personal allowance in a care home
  • Misuse of benefits or direct payments  in a family home
  • Someone moving into a person’s home and living rent free without agreement or under duress
  • False representation, using another person's bank account, cards or documents
  • Exploitation of a person’s money or assets, e.g. unauthorised use of a car
  • Misuse of a power of attorney, deputy, appointeeship or other legal authority
  • Rogue trading – eg. unnecessary or overpriced property repairs and failure to carry out agreed repairs or poor workmanship

Possible indicators of financial or material abuse

  • Missing personal possessions
  • Unexplained lack of money or inability to maintain lifestyle
  • Unexplained withdrawal of funds from accounts
  • Power of attorney or lasting power of attorney (LPA) being obtained after the person has ceased to have mental capacity
  • Failure to register an LPA after the person has ceased to have mental capacity to manage their finances, so that it appears that they are continuing to do so
  • The person allocated to manage financial affairs is evasive or uncooperative
  • The family or others show unusual interest in the assets of the person
  • Signs of financial hardship in cases where the person’s financial affairs are being managed by a court appointed deputy, attorney or LPA
  • Recent changes in deeds or title to property
  • Rent arrears and eviction notices
  • A lack of clear financial accounts held by a care home or service
  • Failure to provide receipts for shopping or other financial transactions carried out on behalf of the person
  • Disparity between the person’s living conditions and their financial resources, e.g. insufficient food in the house
  • Unnecessary property repairs

Types of sexual abuse

  • Rape, attempted rape or sexual assault
  • Inappropriate touch anywhere
  • Non-consensual masturbation of either or both persons
  • Non-consensual sexual penetration or attempted penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth
  • Any sexual activity that the person lacks the capacity to consent to
  • Inappropriate looking, sexual teasing or innuendo or sexual harassment
  • Sexual photography or forced use of pornography or witnessing of sexual acts
  • Indecent exposure

Possible indicators of sexual abuse

  • Bruising, particularly to the thighs, buttocks and upper arms and marks on the neck
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Bleeding, pain or itching in the genital area
  • Unusual difficulty in walking or sitting
  • Foreign bodies in genital or rectal openings
  • Infections, unexplained genital discharge, or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Pregnancy in a woman who is unable to consent to sexual intercourse
  • The uncharacteristic use of explicit sexual language or significant changes in sexual behaviour or attitude
  • Incontinence not related to any medical diagnosis
  • Self-harming
  • Poor concentration, withdrawal, sleep disturbance
  • Excessive fear/apprehension of, or withdrawal from, relationships
  • Fear of receiving help with personal care
  • Reluctance to be alone with a particular person

Examples of neglect and acts of omission

  • Failure to provide or allow access to food, shelter, clothing, heating, stimulation and activity, personal or medical care
  • Providing care in a way that the person dislikes
  • Failure to administer medication as prescribed
  • Refusal of access to visitors
  • Not taking account of individuals’ cultural, religious or ethnic needs
  • Not taking account of educational, social and recreational needs
  • Ignoring or isolating the person
  • Preventing the person from making their own decisions
  • Preventing access to glasses, hearing aids, dentures, etc.
  • Failure to ensure privacy and dignity

Possible indicators of neglect and acts of omission

  • Poor environment – dirty or unhygienic
  • Poor physical condition and/or personal hygiene
  • Pressure sores or ulcers
  • Malnutrition or unexplained weight loss
  • Untreated injuries and medical problems
  • Inconsistent or reluctant contact with medical and social care organisations
  • Accumulation of untaken medication
  • Uncharacteristic failure to engage in social interaction
  • Inappropriate or inadequate clothing

Examples of self-neglect

  • Lack of self-care to an extent that it threatens personal health and safety
  • Neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings
  • Inability to avoid self-harm
  • Failure to seek help or access services to meet health and social care needs
  • Inability or unwillingness to manage one’s personal affairs

Indicators of self-neglect

  • Very poor personal hygiene
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Lack of essential food, clothing or shelter
  • Malnutrition and/or dehydration
  • Living in squalid or unsanitary conditions
  • Neglecting household maintenance
  • Hoarding
  • Collecting a large number of animals in inappropriate conditions
  • Not attending medical appointments or non-compliance with health or care services
  • Inability or unwillingness to take medication or treat illness or injury

Types of psychological or emotional abuse

  • Enforced social isolation – preventing someone accessing services, educational and social opportunities and seeing friends
  • Removing mobility or communication aids or intentionally leaving someone unattended when they need assistance
  • Preventing someone from meeting their religious and cultural needs
  • Preventing the expression of choice and opinion
  • Failure to respect privacy
  • Preventing stimulation, meaningful occupation or activities
  • Intimidation, coercion, harassment, use of threats, humiliation, bullying, swearing or verbal abuse
  • Addressing a person in a patronising or infantilising way
  • Threats of harm or abandonment
  • Threats to harm themselves or others if you don't comply with their demands
  • Cyber bullying

Possible indicators of psychological or emotional abuse

  • A change in character when a particular person is present
  • Withdrawal or change in the psychological state of the person
  • Insomnia
  • Low self-esteem
  • Uncooperative and aggressive behaviour
  • A change of appetite, weight loss/gain
  • Signs of distress: tearfulness, anger, anxious
  • Apparent false claims, by someone involved with the person, to attract unnecessary treatment

The government definition of domestic abuse is, 'any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse already described in other sections.​​

  • Psychological​
  • Physical​
  • Sexual​
  • Financial​
  • Emotional​

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.​

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.​​

This definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so called 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Possible indicators of domestic violence or abuse

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling that the abuse is their fault when it is not
  • Physical evidence of violence such as bruising, cuts, broken bones
  • Verbal abuse and humiliation in front of others
  • Fear of outside intervention
  • Damage to home or property
  • Noise from the property
  • Isolation – not seeing friends and family
  • Limited access to money

Adult and Child Domestic Abuse

Abuse of adults at risk is one form of abuse inflicted by people who abuse their relative power over others. There are of course other forms of abuse anyone can come across in the course of their work in particular child abuse and domestic abuse Everyone has a responsibility beyond that of the particular client or service user group they specialise in to be aware of risk to anyone they come across and to know where to refer concerns on to where these are outside their area of responsibility.

There are also times when individual situations cross the boundaries i.e. some instances of physical abuse in adult safeguarding may also be cases of domestic abuse but where the victim's vulnerability is related to their lack of capacity to make themselves safe; a child may have a parent who may be seen as vulnerable due to their mental capacity and hence their ability to keep their child safe. This guidance seeks to link to the work carried out in respect of domestic abuse, safeguarding children and adult safeguarding. There are lessons to learn from each other and experiences to share.

Detailed joint guidance for adult and children's workers on their responsibilities for safeguarding is available to download at the bottom of this page.  It includes information on what to look out for, who to report to and also guidance on what to do if an adult discloses to an adult worker abuse that they experienced as a child.

Types of modern slavery

  • Human trafficking
  • Forced labour
  • Domestic servitude
  • Sexual exploitation, such as escort work, prostitution and pornography
  • Debt bondage – being forced to work to pay off debts that realistically they never will be able to

Possible indicators of modern slavery

  • Signs of physical or emotional abuse
  • Appearing to be malnourished, unkempt or withdrawn
  • Isolation from the community, seeming under the control or influence of others
  • Living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation and or living and working at the same address
  • Lack of personal effects or identification documents
  • Always wearing the same clothes
  • Avoidance of eye contact, appearing frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers
  • Fear of law enforcers

Types of discriminatory abuse

  • Unequal treatment based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex or sexual orientation (known as ‘protected characteristics’ under the Equality Act 2010)
  • Verbal abuse, derogatory remarks or inappropriate use of language related to a protected characteristic
  • Denying access to communication aids, not allowing access to an interpreter, signer or lip-reader
  • Harassment or deliberate exclusion on the grounds of a protected characteristic
  • Denying basic rights to healthcare, education, employment and criminal justice relating to a protected characteristic
  • Substandard service provision relating to a protected characteristic

Possible indicators of discriminatory abuse

  • The person appears withdrawn and isolated
  • Expressions of anger, frustration, fear or anxiety
  • The support on offer does not take account of the person’s individual needs in terms of a protected characteristic

Hate Crime

The term 'hate crime' can be used to describe a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim's disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.  Discriminatory abuse may also be a hate crime. 

See our separate Hate Crime section for more information  

Hate Crime

Organisational abuse is that which occurs within an organisations, institutions or a specific care setting such as a hospital or care home and is often linked to poor standards. It can be through neglect or poor professional practice as a result of the structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation.

Examples of organisational or institutional abuse

  • Discouraging visits or the involvement of relatives or friends
  • Run-down or overcrowded establishment
  • Insufficient staff or high turnover resulting in poor quality care
  • Abusive and disrespectful attitudes towards people using the service
  • Inappropriate use of restraints
  • Lack of respect for dignity and privacy
  • Failure to manage residents with abusive behaviour
  • Not providing adequate food and drink, or assistance with eating
  • Not offering choice or promoting independence
  • Misuse of medication
  • Failure to provide care with dentures, spectacles or hearing aids
  • Not taking account of individuals’ cultural, religious or ethnic needs
  • Failure to respond to abuse appropriately
  • Interference with personal correspondence or communication
  • Failure to respond to complaints

Possible indicators of organisational or institutional abuse

  • Lack of flexibility and choice for people using the service
  • Inadequate staffing levels
  • People being hungry or dehydrated
  • Poor standards of care
  • Lack of personal clothing and possessions and communal use of personal items
  • Lack of adequate procedures
  • Poor record-keeping and missing documents
  • Absence of visitors
  • Few social, recreational and educational activities
  • Public discussion of personal matters
  • Unnecessary exposure during bathing or using the toilet
  • Absence of individual care plans
  • Lack of management overview and support

There is more information and examples of abuse on the Salford City Council website.

 

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