Categories of abuse

Abuse of adults can happen anywhere. It can happen at home, in a residential or nursing home, in a hospital, at work or in the street. There are different types of abuse, which include:

  • Physical abuse – including hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate physical sanctions;
  • Sexual abuse – including rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the adult has not consented or was pressured into consenting;
  • Psychological abuse – including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or supportive networks;
  • Exploitation – either opportunistically or premeditated, unfairly manipulating someone for profit or personal gain. This includes modern slavery and human trafficking;
  • Financial or material abuse – including theft, fraud, exploitation, coercion in relation to an adult’s financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits;
  • Neglect and acts of omission – including ignoring medical or physical care needs, overuse of medication, failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating;
  • Discriminatory abuse – including discrimination on grounds of race, gender and gender identity , disability, sexual orientation, religion, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment;
  • Institutional abuse – including neglect and poor care practice within an institution or specific care setting like a hospital or care home, for example. This may range from isolated incidents to continuing ill-treatment;
  • Self Neglect – failure of an adult to take care of himself or herself that causes, or is reasonably likely to cause within a short period of time, serious physical, mental or emotional harm or substantial damage to or loss of assets. This includes hoarding; and
  • Domestic Abuse – Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling behaviourcoercive behaviour 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.


What is abuse in plain English