At a glance 69: Adult safeguarding: Types and indicators of abuse

Published: January 2015

Key messages

People with care and support needs, such as older people or people with disabilities, are more likely to be abused or neglected. They may be seen as an easy target and may be less likely to identify abuse themselves or to report it. People with communication difficulties can be particularly at risk because they may not be able to alert others. Sometimes people may not even be aware that they are being abused, and this is especially likely if they have a cognitive impairment. Abusers may try to prevent access to the person they abuse.

Signs of abuse can often be difficult to detect. This At a glance briefing aims to help people who come into contact with people with care and support needs to identify abuse and recognise possible indicators. Many types of abuse are also criminal offences and should be treated as such.

Types of abuse:

  • Physical abuse
  • Domestic violence or abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Financial or material abuse
  • Modern slavery
  • Discriminatory abuse
  • Organisational or institutional abuse
  • Neglect or acts of omission
  • Self-neglect

Evidence of any one indicator from the following lists should not be taken on its own as proof that abuse is occurring. However, it should alert practitioners to make further assessments and to consider other associated factors. The lists of possible indicators and examples of behaviour are not exhaustive and people may be subject to a number of abuse types at the same time.

Physical abuse

Types of physical abuse

Possible indicators of physical abuse

Domestic violence or abuse

Types of domestic violence or abuse

Domestic violence or abuse can be characterised by any of the indicators of abuse outlined in this briefing relating to:

Domestic violence and abuse includes 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. It also includes so called 'honour’ -based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

Coercive or controlling behaviour is a core part of domestic violence. Coercive behaviour can include:

Possible indicators of domestic violence or abuse

Sexual abuse

Types of sexual abuse

Possible indicators of sexual abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse

Types of psychological or emotional abuse

Possible indicators of psychological or emotional abuse

Financial or material abuse

Types of financial or material abuse

Possible indicators of financial or material abuse

Modern slavery

Types of modern slavery

Possible indicators of modern slavery

Further Home Office information on identifying and reporting modern slavery

Discriminatory abuse

Types of discriminatory abuse

Possible indicators of discriminatory abuse

Organisational or institutional abuse

Types of organisational or institutional abuse

Possible indicators of organisational or institutional abuse

Neglect and acts of omission

Types of neglect and acts of omission

Possible indicators of neglect and acts of omission

Self-neglect

Types of self-neglect

Indicators of self-neglect

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