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Lewisham Safeguarding Adults Board

Forms and Signs of Abuse

People with care and support needs, such as older people or people living with a disability, are more likely to be abused or neglected. They may be seen as an easy target and may be less likely to identify abuse themselves or to report it. People with communication difficulties can be particularly at risk because they may not be able to alert others. Sometimes people may not even be aware that they are being abused, and this is especially likely if they have a cognitive impairment. Abusers may try to prevent access to the person they abuse.

Whilst these particular adults are the specific focus of ‘Safeguarding Adults’ policy and procedures, this does not negate the public duty of those carrying out this work to protect the human rights of all citizens, including those who are the subject of concern but are not covered by these procedures, or those who are not the subject of the initial concern.

Such work is the responsibility of all agencies and cannot exist in isolation. It must be effectively linked to other initiatives, as part of a network of measures aimed at enabling all citizens to live lives that are free from violence, harassment, humiliation and degradation.

Signs of abuse

Signs of abuse can often be difficult to detect. The information below aims to help people who come into contact with people with care and support needs to identify abuse and recognise possible indicators. Many types of abuse are also criminal offences and should be treated as such.

Types of abuse:

  • Discriminatory abuse
  • Domestic abuse
  • Financial or material abuse
  • Modern slavery
  • Neglect or acts of omission
  • Organisational or institutional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Radicalisation
  • Self-neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual exploitation

Evidence of any one indicator from the following lists should not be taken on its own as proof that abuse is occurring. However, it should alert practitioners to make further assessments and to consider other associated factors. The lists of possible indicators and examples of behaviour are not exhaustive and people may be subject to a number of abuse types at the same time.

Discriminatory abuse

Types of discriminatory abuse

  • Unequal treatment based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex or sexual orientation (known as protected characteristics’ under the Equality Act 2010)
  • Verbal abuse, derogatory remarks or inappropriate use of language related to a protected characteristic
  • Denying access to communication aids, not allowing access to an interpreter, signer or lip-reader
  • Harassment or deliberate exclusion on the grounds of a protected characteristic
  • Denying basic rights to healthcare, education, employment and criminal justice relating to a protected characteristic
  • Substandard service provision relating to a protected characteristic

Possible indicators of discriminatory abuse

  • The person appears withdrawn and isolated
  • Expressions of anger, frustration, fear or anxiety
  • The support on offer does not take account of the person’s individual needs in terms of a protected characteristic

Hate Crime

Hate crime is the targeting of individuals, groups and communities because of who they are.

It is any incident which is a criminal offence and which is thought, by you or someone else, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, gender identity, disability, age, sexual orientation or any other actual or seeming difference.

This can include:

  • Threats, bullying or intimidation
  • Threatening or offensive mail, texts or emails
  • Verbal abuse
  • Damage to property
  • Physical assaults

It is important to report all hate incidents, even if you think nothing can be done as it helps the police and other agencies identify areas of concern, patterns of behaviour and what is happening in our communities. Hate crimes are not only crimes against the targeted victim, but also against a particular group as a whole. Firm action will be taken against people who commit any acts of hatred.

We know that some victims may not wish to be identified, so we encourage victims to report crime anonymously to a third party reporting site to ensure that the police can do all they can to tackle hate crime in the community.

The police and the council will:

  • Investigate all reported incidents of hate crime
  • Take legal action if there is sufficient evidence to enable us to do this
  • Keep in contact with you and let you know of our progress
  • Support you during this process

Here is a list of groups and local venues where you can make an anonymous report of hate crime. Some organisations can offer support to help you decide if you want to make an official report or complaint. If you do, this will be forwarded to the police and the council to note or take action and for monitoring the numbers of incidents reported.

Lewisham Irish Community Centre
2a Davenport Road, Lewisham, SE6 2AZ.
Email Lewisham Irish Community Centre
020 8695 9608

Traveller’s Outreach
Email Travellers Outreach
07931 638775

2000 Community Action Centre
199 Grove Street, Deptford, SE8 3PG.
Email 2000 Community Action Centre
020 8692 2760

Baseline drop-in service
39 Lewis Grove, Lewisham SE13 6BG
020 8314 7549
020 8314 4835

Catford Citizens Advice Bureau
120 Rushey Green, Catford SE6 4HQ
0844 826 9691

Goldsmiths, University of London
Lewisham Way, New Cross SE14 6NW
Email Goldsmiths, University of London
020 7919 7171

Lewisham Southwark College
Lewisham Way, SE4 1UT

Email Lewisham Southwark College
020 8694 3233

Lewisham Disabilities Coalition
111 Randlesdown Road, Catford SE6 3PH
020 8697 0100
Email Lewisham Disabilities Coalition

Lewisham Islamic Centre
363-365 Lewisham High Street, Lewisham SE13 6NZ
Email Lewisham Islamic Centre
020 8690 5090

Lewisham Speaking Up
The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, SE8 4AG
Email Lewisham Speaking Up
020 8691 7198

Lewisham Victim Support
300 Sangley Road, Catford SE6 2JT
Email Lewisham Victim Support
020 8698 4583

London Sivan Temple
4A Clarendon Rise, London SE13 5ES
Email London Sivan Temple
020 8318 9844
07836 347748

Millwall Football Club
The Den, Zampa Road, New cross SE16 3LN
Email Millwall Football Club
020 7232 1222

Second Wave
1 Creek Road, Deptford SE8 3BT
Email Second Wave
020 8694 2444

Sydenham Citizens Advice Bureau
299 Kirkdale, Sydenham SE26 4QD
Email Sydenham Citizens Advice Bureau
0844 826 9691

Metro Greenwich
141 Greenwich High Road, London SE10 8JA

Email Metro Greenwich
020 8305 5000

More information on Hate Crime can be found on the Lewisham Council Website

Domestic abuse

Types of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse can be characterised by any of the indicators of abuse relating to:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial or economic
  • Emotional

Domestic abuse includes any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive 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. It also includes so called 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage. (This definition will change once the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 comes into force).

Coercive or controlling behaviour is a core part of domestic violence. Coercive behaviour can include:

  • Acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation
  • Harming, punishing, or frightening the person
  • Isolating the person from sources of support
  • Exploitation of resources or money
  • Preventing the person from escaping abuse
  • Regulating everyday behaviour

Possible indicators of domestic abuse

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling that the abuse is their fault when it is not
  • Physical evidence of violence such as bruising, cuts, broken bones
  • Verbal abuse and humiliation in front of others
  • Fear of outside intervention
  • Damage to home or property
  • Isolation – not seeing friends and family
  • Limited access to money

Financial or material abuse

Types of financial or material abuse

  • Theft of money or possessions
  • Fraud, scamming
  • Preventing a person from accessing their own money, benefits or assets
  • Employees taking a loan from a person using the service
  • Undue pressure, duress, threat or undue influence put on the person in connection with loans, wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions
  • Arranging less care than is needed to save money to maximise inheritance
  • Denying assistance to manage/monitor financial affairs
  • Denying assistance to access benefits
  • Misuse of personal allowance in a care home
  • Misuse of benefits or direct payments  in a family home
  • Someone moving into a person’s home and living rent free without agreement or under duress
  • False representation, using another person's bank account, cards or documents
  • Exploitation of a person’s money or assets, e.g. unauthorised use of a car
  • Misuse of a power of attorney, deputy, appointeeship or other legal authority
  • Rogue trading – eg. unnecessary or overpriced property repairs and failure to carry out agreed repairs or poor workmanship

Possible indicators of financial or material abuse

  • Missing personal possessions
  • Unexplained lack of money or inability to maintain lifestyle
  • Unexplained withdrawal of funds from accounts
  • Power of attorney or lasting power of attorney (LPA) being obtained after the person has ceased to have mental capacity
  • Failure to register an LPA after the person has ceased to have mental capacity to manage their finances, so that it appears that they are continuing to do so
  • The person allocated to manage financial affairs is evasive or uncooperative
  • The family or others show unusual interest in the assets of the person
  • Signs of financial hardship in cases where the person’s financial affairs are being managed by a court appointed deputy, attorney or LPA
  • Recent changes in deeds or title to property
  • Rent arrears and eviction notices
  • A lack of clear financial accounts held by a care home or service
  • Failure to provide receipts for shopping or other financial transactions carried out on behalf of the person
  • Disparity between the person’s living conditions and their financial resources, e.g. insufficient food in the house
  • Unnecessary property repairs

            Modern slavery

            Types of modern slavery

            • Human trafficking
            • Forced labour
            • Domestic servitude
            • Sexual exploitation, such as escort work, prostitution and pornography
            • Debt bondage – being forced to work to pay off debts that realistically they never will be able to

            Possible indicators of modern slavery

            • Signs of physical or emotional abuse
            • Appearing to be malnourished, unkempt or withdrawn
            • Isolation from the community, seeming under the control or influence of others
            • Living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation and or living and working at the same address
            • Lack of personal effects or identification documents
            • Always wearing the same clothes
            • Avoidance of eye contact, appearing frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers
            • Fear of law enforcers

            Further Home Office information on identifying and reporting modern slavery

            Neglect and acts of omission

            Types of neglect and acts of omission

            • Failure to provide or allow access to food, shelter, clothing, heating, stimulation and activity, personal or medical care
            • Providing care in a way that the person dislikes
            • Failure to administer medication as prescribed
            • Refusal of access to visitors
            • Not taking account of individuals’ cultural, religious or ethnic needs
            • Not taking account of educational, social and recreational needs
            • Ignoring or isolating the person
            • Preventing the person from making their own decisions
            • Preventing access to glasses, hearing aids, dentures, etc.
            • Failure to ensure privacy and dignity

            Possible indicators of neglect and acts of omission

            • Poor environment – dirty or unhygienic
            • Poor physical condition and/or personal hygiene
            • Pressure sores or ulcers
            • Malnutrition or unexplained weight loss
            • Untreated injuries and medical problems
            • Inconsistent or reluctant contact with medical and social care organisations
            • Accumulation of untaken medication
            • Uncharacteristic failure to engage in social interaction
            • Inappropriate or inadequate clothing

              Organisational or institutional abuse

              Types of organisational or institutional abuse

              • Discouraging visits or the involvement of relatives or friends
              • Run-down or overcrowded establishment
              • Authoritarian management or rigid regimes
              • Lack of leadership and supervision
              • Insufficient staff or high turnover resulting in poor quality care
              • Abusive and disrespectful attitudes towards people using the service
              • Inappropriate use of restraints
              • Lack of respect for dignity and privacy
              • Failure to manage residents with abusive behaviour
              • Not providing adequate food and drink, or assistance with eating
              • Not offering choice or promoting independence
              • Misuse of medication
              • Failure to provide care with dentures, spectacles or hearing aids
              • Not taking account of individuals’ cultural, religious or ethnic needs
              • Failure to respond to abuse appropriately
              • Interference with personal correspondence or communication
              • Failure to respond to complaints

              Possible indicators of organisational or institutional abuse

              • Lack of flexibility and choice for people using the service
              • Inadequate staffing levels
              • People being hungry or dehydrated
              • Poor standards of care
              • Lack of personal clothing and possessions and communal use of personal items
              • Lack of adequate procedures
              • Poor record-keeping and missing documents
              • Absence of visitors
              • Few social, recreational and educational activities
              • Public discussion of personal matters
              • Unnecessary exposure during bathing or using the toilet
              • Absence of individual care plans
              • Lack of management overview and support

              Physical abuse

              Types of physical abuse

              • Assault, hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, hair-pulling, biting, pushing
              • Rough handling
              • Scalding and burning
              • Physical punishments
              • Inappropriate or unlawful use of restraint
              • Making someone purposefully uncomfortable (e.g. opening a window and removing blankets)
              • Involuntary isolation or confinement
              • Misuse of medication (e.g. over-sedation)
              • Forcible feeding or withholding food
              • Unauthorised restraint, restricting movement (e.g. tying someone to a chair)

              Possible indicators of physical abuse

              • No explanation for injuries or inconsistency with the account of what happened
              • Injuries are inconsistent with the person’s lifestyle
              • Bruising, cuts, welts, burns and/or marks on the body or loss of hair in clumps
              • Frequent injuries
              • Unexplained falls
              • Subdued or changed behaviour in the presence of a particular person
              • Signs of malnutrition
              • Failure to seek medical treatment or frequent changes of GP

              Psychological or emotional abuse

              Types of psychological or emotional abuse

              • Enforced social isolation – preventing someone accessing services, educational and social opportunities and seeing friends
              • Removing mobility or communication aids or intentionally leaving someone unattended when they need assistance
              • Preventing someone from meeting their religious and cultural needs
              • Preventing the expression of choice and opinion
              • Failure to respect privacy
              • Preventing stimulation, meaningful occupation or activities
              • Intimidation, coercion, harassment, use of threats, humiliation, bullying, swearing or verbal abuse
              • Addressing a person in a patronising or infantilising way
              • Threats of harm or abandonment
              • Cyber bullying

              Possible indicators of psychological or emotional abuse

              • An air of silence when a particular person is present
              • Withdrawal or change in the psychological state of the person
              • Insomnia
              • Low self-esteem
              • Uncooperative and aggressive behaviour
              • A change of appetite, weight loss/gain
              • Signs of distress: tearfulness, anger
              • Apparent false claims, by someone involved with the person, to attract unnecessary treatment


                Types of self-neglect

                • Lack of self-care to an extent that it threatens personal health and safety
                • Neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings
                • Inability to avoid self-harm
                • Failure to seek help or access services to meet health and social care needs
                • Inability or unwillingness to manage one’s personal affairs

                Indicators of self-neglect

                • Very poor personal hygiene
                • Unkempt appearance
                • Lack of essential food, clothing or shelter
                • Malnutrition and/or dehydration
                • Living in squalid or unsanitary conditions
                • Neglecting household maintenance
                • Hoarding
                • Collecting a large number of animals in inappropriate conditions
                • Non-compliance with health or care services
                • Inability or unwillingness to take medication or treat illness or injury

                Sexual abuse

                Types of sexual abuse

                • Rape, attempted rape or sexual assault
                • Inappropriate touch anywhere
                • Non- consensual masturbation of either or both persons
                • Non- consensual sexual penetration or attempted penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth
                • Any sexual activity that the person lacks the capacity to consent to
                • Inappropriate looking, sexual teasing or innuendo or sexual harassment
                • Sexual photography or forced use of pornography or witnessing of sexual acts
                • Indecent exposure

                Possible indicators of sexual abuse

                • Bruising, particularly to the thighs, buttocks and upper arms and marks on the neck
                • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
                • Bleeding, pain or itching in the genital area
                • Unusual difficulty in walking or sitting
                • Foreign bodies in genital or rectal openings
                • Infections, unexplained genital discharge, or sexually transmitted diseases
                • Pregnancy in a woman who is unable to consent to sexual intercourse
                • The uncharacteristic use of explicit sexual language or significant changes in sexual behaviour or attitude
                • Incontinence not related to any medical diagnosis
                • Self-harming
                • Poor concentration, withdrawal, sleep disturbance
                • Excessive fear/apprehension of, or withdrawal from, relationships
                • Fear of receiving help with personal care
                • Reluctance to be alone with a particular person


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