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What is abuse?


There are many different types of abuse and they all result in behaviour towards a person that deliberately or unintentionally causes harm. It is a violation of an individual's human and civil rights and in the worst cases can result in death.

Examples are:

  • physical abuse: this may include hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, pinching or scratching, and the misuse of medication
  • domestic abuse: abuse by or instigated by a partner, ex-partner, or family member
  • sexual abuse: this includes rape, sexual assault, unwanted sexual acts, sexual acts with someone who is unable to give their consent, subjection to indecent exposure, teasing or innuendo, and online sexual abuse
  • psychological or emotional abuse: this may include intimidation e.g. threats of physical harm, shouting, swearing, name calling, racist comments, deprivation of normal activities or contact, humiliation, indifference, emotional blackmail
  • financial or material abuse: theft, fraud, extortion, gaining access to a person's funds or possessions
  • modern slavery: human trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, such as escort work, prostitution and pornography, debt bondage
  • discriminatory abuse: oppressive and prejudicial attitudes towards a person's disability, age, race religion sexual orientations
  • organisational abuse: this includes an abusive regime or culture, ignoring a person's needs and wishes, poor practice or neglect in services, misuse pf therapeutic power and abuse of trust by professionals, the failure of professionals to act on suspected abuse/crimes
  • neglect and acts of omission: deliberate withholding of, or unintentional failure to provide, care and support
  • self neglect: lack of self-care, neglecting to care for one's personal hygiene, health or surroundings, inability to avoid self-harm, not asking for help or accessing services to meet health and social care needs, inability or unwillingness to manage one's own personal affairs

We have produced an easy read document that provides some general information about types of abuse, how to spot the signs and what happens when you report it.

SCIE has produced a more detailed introduction to the types and indicators of abuse

Keep Safe has produced a series of easy read posters about Covid-19 and keeping safe which includes one on domestic abuse

Tricky Friends

Tricky Friends is a three-minute film developed to help people to understand what good friendships are, when they might be harmful, and what they can do. It raises awareness of issues like exploitation, county lines, and home invasion (often known as cuckooing). The film aims to support and empower adults to speak to someone they trust when 'something's not right'.

My Story

A County Durham person's experiences have been made into a short film, My Story.  My Story takes you through the journey of recognising an abusive situation, gaining positive safeguarding support, and achieving resolution.  The clear message is to 'think' and 'report'.

Safeguarding Adults BSL video

Watch Newcastle City Council's video including British Sign Language.

It explains the different types of abuse and what happens after someone tells us that abuse has or may have happened. The film has been produced by the North East Association of Directors of Adult Social Services to explain safeguarding adults.

Financial abuse

This film takes you through a case study about financial abuse.

Sexual exploitation

A guidance document has been developed jointly with Darlington Safeguarding Partnership to help raise awareness of sexual exploitation and provide information on how to report it if you suspect someone is being exploited.

Related information