What is abuse?

Everyone has the right to have their human dignity respected and live their life free from abuse and neglect.

Protecting the most vulnerable in society, when they need it, could ensure a better quality of life for many people. Some adults may be particularly vulnerable to abuse and may have their human rights routinely disregarded.

Local Authorities, police, the health board, regulators and other public services work together and are committed to ensuring that vulnerable adults are protected from abuse and neglect, and will take immediate action where necessary, to keep vulnerable adults safe from harm.

Who may be a vulnerable adult?

The definition of a vulnerable adult is:

"A person who is 18 years of age or over, and who may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who is or may be unable to take care of themselves, or unable to protect themselves against significant harm or serious exploitation."

Vulnerable adults may include people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, older people and disabled people particularly when their situation is complicated by additional factors such as physical frailty, chronic illness, sensory impairment, challenging behaviour, lack of mental capacity, social and emotional problems, poverty, homelessness or substance misuse.

What is 'abuse'?

Abuse is mistreatment by someone who does or says things that hurt, upset you, make you frightened or cause actual physical harm.  Abuse can range from treatment that ignores your human and civil rights, causes actual mental or physical suffering and can significantly affect your quality of life.

Abuse can happen anywhere - in a residential or nursing home, a hospital, in the workplace, a persons own home, at a day centre or educational establishment, in supported housing or in the street.

Forms of abuse include:

Physical abuse such as hitting, pushing, pinching, shaking, using too much medication or not allowing a person to take their medication.

Sexual abuse such as forcing someone into unwanted sexual activity, being touched inappropriately, rape, sexual assault, or sexual acts which you have not have consented to, or which you were pressurised into consenting to.

Psychological or emotional abuse such as being intimidated, threatened, verbally abused or humiliated, being blamed, controlled or harassed, being ignored on purpose or isolated from friends, family, services or support.

Financial abuse such as fraud or exploitation, stealing or withholding your money or spending it inappropriately, putting pressure on you to make changes to your will or misusing your property, inheritance, possessions or benefits.

Neglect such as ignoring your medical or physical care needs, preventing access to health, social care or educational services, not caring for you properly, not providing you with adequate food, or putting you at risk.

Any of these forms of abuse can be either deliberate or be the result of ignorance, or lack of training, knowledge or understanding. Sometimes people may be being abused in more than one way.

Who might be causing the abuse?

The person who is responsible for the abuse may be known to you and could be:

  • A paid carer or volunteer.
  • A health worker, social care or other worker.
  • Friend or neighbour.
  • Another resident or service user.
  • A relative – looking after a vulnerable adult can be difficult.  Carers can sometimes feel isolated and stressed.
  • Someone who deliberately exploits vulnerable people.
  • Anyone else with access to the person concerned.
Contact us

Elsewhere on the web

Action on Elder Abuse Cymru