About adult abuse

Recognising abuse: types and signs of abuse

Adult abuse varies. The most common types are:

Physical abuse

This is usually the use of force to cause pain or injury. As a result you may see signs such as physical injuries, burns or bruising which cannot be easily explained.


This is when basic needs are not being met, leading to a deterioration in appearance or health.

Sexual abuse

This is the involvement in sexual activities which are not wanted or understood by the adult. Signs of this might be changes in behaviour or physical discomfort.

Financial abuse

This is the exploitation of an adult for financial gain. Signs of this might be valuables going missing from the home, or a change in the adult's financial circumstances which cannot be easily explained.

Psychological abuse

This is behaviour that has a harmful effect on the emotional health and development of an adult. Signs of this might be fear, confusion or disturbed sleep.

Domestic abuse

This includes physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse by someone who is or has been a partner or family member, and includes ‘honour’ based violence, Female Genital Mutilation and forced marriage.

Modern slavery

This includes slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude.


This is when an adult neglects to care for their personal hygiene, health and surroundings, including hoarding.


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