What is abuse?
"Abuse is a violation of an individual's human and civil rights by any person or persons"
Source: Department of Health "No Secrets" 2000
Sadly, a significant number of vulnerable adults experience abuse.
Abuse is any behaviour towards a person that deliberately or unknowingly causes him or her harm, either physically, emotionally or in its effect on a person's wellbeing and development. It might be a single action or repeated actions.
Abuse can be:
- Physical - hitting, smacking, pushing, shaking, over-medication, unnecessary restraint, withholding food or drink or otherwise causing physical harm.
- Sexual - any sexual activity where a vulnerable adult cannot or does not give their consent such as unwanted sexual attention, teasing/innuendo, touching or molesting.
- Financial or material - such as fraud or theft, borrowing money and not repaying or using a vulnerable adult's money or property without their permission.
- Emotional or psychological - such as shouting or swearing at or ignoring a vulnerable adult, humiliation, patronising attitudes, denying privacy or other rights or the use of insulting language related to their age, ethnicity, culture, background, sexuality or disability (this could also be called "discrimination")
- Neglect and acts of omission - this is where a person allows a vulnerable adult to suffer by not fulfilling their responsibility of care.
- Institutional - repeated poor care of vulnerable adults or groups of individuals through neglect or poor professional practice.
Where can abuse happen?
Abuse can take place in any setting:
- In your own home.
- In someone else's home (a relative or friend's)
- In a residential or nursing home.
- In a hospital or GP surgery.
- In a day centre, adult day services, learning centre, college or other establishment.
- At work.
- In a public place.
Who abuses adults?
Vulnerable adults can be abused by anyone such as:
- Friends and other associates
- Professional staff
- Paid or voluntary workers
- Other vulnerable adults
- People who deliberately target vulnerable adults and strangers
What are the signs to look for?
Some of the signs are:
- Multiple bruising or finger marks
- Injuries the person cannot provide a good reason for
- Deterioration of health for no apparent reason
- Inappropriate clothing
- Mood changes or withdrawal
- Shortage of money
- A person who is unwilling to be alone with a carer
- A carer who is unwilling to allow access to the person.
The earlier abuse is spotted, the less long-term harm can be carried out - always trust your instincts if you feel someone is not being treated in the way they should be.
If you suspect abuse is happening, share your concerns.