What are abuse and neglect?

Abuse is defined as something someone does or says things to another person to upset them, hurt them or make them frightened. It is a behaviour that causes harm, endangers or violates their basic human rights. 

Abuse can be deliberate, or something that was unintentional due to lack of understanding or result of negligence. something that happens once or repeatedly a crime.

Types of abuse

Physical abuse


  • assault, hitting, kicking, slapping, pushing
  • misuse of medication
  • various physical restraints such as being locked in a room or held down.

Sexual abuse


  • rape, sexual assault
  • indecent exposure,
  • sexual harassment,
  • inappropriate touching or looking
  • sexual teasing and innuendo
  • sexual photography
  • subjection to pornography or witnessing sexual act and sexual acts which the adult has not consented to or was pressured into consenting.

Domestic violence


  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional abuse, and
  • so called ‘honour’ based violence.

Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse includes:

  • 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 supportive networks.

Financial or material abuse

This includes:

  • 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 of misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

Modern slavery

Modern slavery is defined as when someone is forced to work with little or no pay, or threatened with violence if they do not work. It includes:

  • slavery
  • human trafficking
  • forced labour and domestic servitude
  • traffickers and slave masters using whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce
  • deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse
  • servitude and inhumane treatment. 

Discriminatory abuse

Discrimnatory abuse includes harassment and being treated badly because of:

  • race
  • gender reassignment
  • age
  • disability
  • sexual orientation
  • religion and belief
  • disability
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity and sex.

Organisational or institutional abuse

This type of abuse includes neglect and poor care practice within an institution or specific care setting such as:

  • a hospital or care home, or
  • in relation to care provided in one’s own home.

This may range from one-off incidents to ongoing ill-treatment. It can be through neglect or poor professional practice as a result of the structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation.

Types of neglect

Acts of omission

This includes:

  • ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs
  • failure to provide access to appropriate
    • health
    • care and support, or
    • educational services
  • withholding of the necessities of life, for example
    • medication
    • adequate nutrition, and
    • heating.


Self neglect covers a wide range of behaviour:

  • neglecting to care for one’s
    • personal hygiene
    • health, or
    • surroundings. 

Self neglect also includes behaviour such as hoarding.

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