What is abuse?

With better understanding about what constitutes and how to report abuse, we can work together to prevent and address it.

We believe people have the right to live their lives free from violence and abuse.

Unfortunately, some groups of adults experience more abuse and neglect than the general population.

Everyone has a responsibility to look out for people who are vulnerable to abuse and to notify agencies if they know or think that abuse is taking place.

Download a copy of the preventing abuse brochure in English Chinese or  Bengali for more information. 

You can also read the policies and procedures.

Say_No_To_AbuseWhat is abuse?

Abuse can take many different forms:

  • Physical abuse – including assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate physical sanctions.
  • Domestic violence – including psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse or so-called ‘honour’ based violence.
  • Sexual abuse – including rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking or touching, sexual teasing or innuendo, sexual photography, subjection to pornography or witnessing sexual acts, indecent exposure and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the adult has not consented or was pressured into consenting.
  • Psychological abuse – including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, cyber bullying, isolation or unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or supportive networks.
  • Financial or material abuse – including theft, fraud, internet scamming, 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.
  • Modern slavery – encompasses slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.
  • Discriminatory abuse – including forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment; because of race, gender and gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
  • Organisational/institutional abuse – including neglect and poor care practice within an institution or specific care setting such as a hospital or care home, for example, or in relation to care provided in one’s own home. This may range from one off incidents to on-going ill-treatment. It can be through neglect or poor professional practice as a result of the structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation.
  • Neglect and acts of omission – including ignoring medical, emotional 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.
  • Self-neglect – this covers a wide range of behaviour neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding. Domestic violence is very closely related but in the first instance falls within a different set of inter-agency policies and procedures. The Department of Health define abuse as '...a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons'.

Who is a vulnerable adult?

A vulnerable adult is anyone aged 18 and over who:

  • has needs for care and support
  • is experiencing, or is at risk of abuse or neglect
  • is unable to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.

Examples of vulnerable adults might include:

  • people with learning disabilities
  • people with physical disabilities
  • people with sensory impairments
  • older people
  • people with mental health problems.

Who could be an abuser?

Examples of people who might abuse others include:

  • Family members, partner, child or other relatives
  • Friends or neighbours
  • Another vulnerable adult
  • A paid or volunteer carer
  • A professional worker
  • Strangers, including school children
  • An occasional visitor or service provider.

Where can abuse happen?

Abuse may happen anywhere, but examples of places where it could happen include:

  • in your own home
  • at relatives or friends homes
  • in residential or nursing homes
  • on public transport
  • in a day centre, social club, adult education centre
  • in hospital or GP surgery
  • any public places.

What to do if you witness a person being abused

If you see abuse taking place or are concerned that abuse may occur, please try to do the following:

  • make sure that the person is safe
  • listen calmly to the person
  • talk reassuringly to the person
  • tell them that with their consent they can get help and support
  • try to make an accurate report using the person's own words
  • describe the circumstances in which it occurred
  • keep person informed of all follow-on proceedings.

In an emergency please call 999

We use the London Multi-Agency Adults Safeguarding Policy and Procedures when we suspect neglect or abuse has occurred.

Useful safeguarding links