Adults at risk: Physical, Sexual and Psychological Abuse

Adults at risk: Physical, Sexual and Psychological Abuse

Posted on Aug 13, 2016

Adults at risk: Physical, Sexual and Psychological Abuse



In a previous blog, we discussed the definition of an adult at risk, and who is most likely to be abused. If you missed it, you can read it here.

This blog is going to cover some of the forms of adult abuse and help give an understanding of indicators abuse is taking place.


Physical abuse – what is it, what are the signs and how common is it?

Physical abuse is described as the deliberate use of violence or force that causes pain, injury or other bodily harm. Examples of physical abuse include slapping, kicking, pushing, scalding, forcible feeding, inappropriate restraint and misuse of medication.

Signs that someone is being physically abused can include the following:

  • Burns or other marks on the body such as slap or finger marks
  • Clusters of injuries or multiple bruises, possibly at different stages of healing
  • Subdued behaviour
  • Injuries with no or inconsistent explanations
  • Malnutrition, especially if the person does not live alone
  • Wet clothing or bedding Physical abuse is the second most common form of adult abuse.

It is reported in 27% of all adult safeguarding referrals in England.


Sexual abuse – what is it, what are the signs and how common is it?

Sexual abuse is the direct, or indirect, involvement of an adult at risk in sexual activity without consent. It includes unwanted physical and sexual contact, penetration, sexual assault, rape, masturbation, voyeurism, indecent exposure and involvement in pornography.

Signs that a vulnerable adult is being sexually abused can include:

  • Damage, pain or itching in the genital area or difficulty walking or sitting.
  • Torn, stained or bloody underwear
  • Pregnancy in someone unable to consent to sexual contact
  • Infections or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Fear and withdrawal from relationships.

Victims of adult sexual abuse tend to be the most vulnerable in our society, for example the elderly and frail and/or those with a disability. In fact, women with either of those descriptions are 4 times more likely to be assaulted or raped compared to their non-disabled peers due to their immobility, trouble communicating or lack of sexual knowledge and assertiveness.


Psychological Abuse – what is it, what are the signs and how common is it?

Psychological or emotional abuse is the action or behaviour that harms a person’s dignity, feelings, self-esteem or identity. This type of abuse often happens alongside other forms of abuse, and it includes taunting, humiliating and blaming, intimidation, threats, belittlement, verbal assault, swearing or shouting as well as a general lack of consideration for the individual’s views and opinions.

The possible signs of psychological or emotional abuse include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Low self-esteem and tearfulness
  • Unexplained paranoia or fear
  • Uncharacteristically uncooperative, manipulative or aggressive behaviour
  • Becoming withdrawn or unusually quiet around certain carers or relatives.

Emotional abuse is often difficult to recognise. It can be very subtle, often being overlooked by a person’s friends and family. The person affected may not even think or feel that abuse is taking place.


Raising awareness and staff training with flick

As with child abuse, there are many forms of adult abuse. Any good adult safeguarding training will explain what each type of abuse is.  It should also outline the signs, symptoms and indicators of abuse, as well as summarising key legislation and guidance.

flick's adult safeguarding course is included within our subscription and covers all the below key areas:

  • The definition of an adult at risk
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect
  • Self-Neglect
  • Institutional abuse
  • Responding to disclosures
  • The Care Act 2014


Adults at risk


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