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How to Recognise Signs of Abuse

Identify the signs and symptoms associated with each type of abuse.

Physical abuse

Non-accidental use of force that results in bodily injury and pain this includes being slapped, cut, punched, kicked or improperly physically restrained. Signs of this could be bruises, scratches, cut marks or burns. Sexual abuse Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is abusive sexual behaviour by one person upon another. It is often perpetrated using force or by taking advantage of another. Signs of this could be overly flirtatious or the opposite which would be them closing off from everybody and getting scared when anybody touches them.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is often more hard to spot, with physical and sexual abuse there are physical signs that indicate the person is being abused however with emotional abuse it can be passed off as just normal relationship problems, people can be emotionally abused in many different ways such as: intimidation and threats, critism, undermining, being made to feel guilty, economic abuse and being told what you can and cant do.

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Signs of emotional abuse can be low self esteem, doesn’t speak in a group of people- because they feel that their opinion is invalid- they’re very shy around people, they’re jumpy and get scared easily and very easily manipulated. Financial abuse Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources, which diminishes the victim’s capacity to support themselves and forces them to depend on the perpetrator financially.

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Signs of this could be unexplained withdrawals from the bank, unusual activity in the bank account, unpaid bills, unexplained shortage of money and reliance on the abuser for basic needs such as food and clothes. Institutional abuse Institutional abuse is the maltreatment of a person from a system of power. This can range from acts similar to home-based child abuse, such as neglect, physical or sexual abuse and hunger, to the effects of assistance programs working below acceptable service standards, or relying on harsh or unfair ways to modify behaviour.

Signs of this could be inadequate staffing levels, poor standards of care, people being hungry or dehydrated, lack of personal clothing or possessions and a lack of adequate procedures.

Self-neglect Self-neglect is a behavioral condition in which an individual neglects to attend to their basic needs, such as personal hygiene, appropriate clothing, feeding, or tending appropriately to any medical conditions they have. Signs of this may be poor personal hygiene, lack of essential food, clothing and shelter, neglecting household maintenance and hoarding.

Neglect by others Neglect is a form of abuse where the perpetrator, who is responsible for caring for someone who is unable to care for themselves, fails to do so. It can be a result of carelessness, indifference, or unwillingness. Signs of this may be malnutritionment, smelling of feces or urine, poor grooming and dehydration. Describe factors that may contribute to an individual being more vulnerable to abuse. Factors that may increase the vulnerability to abuse include isolation and exclusion, stigma, an insufficient amount of care, age, gender, and inadequacy of information and support. Know how to respond to suspected or alleged abuse.

Explain the actions to take if there are suspicions that an individual is being abused. You may become suspicious that abuse is taking place if you notice a change in an individual’s behaviour or personality. For example, covering up unexplained bruising or getting upset because they are unable to pay their bills. It could be that there are perfectly valid reasons for these changes, however if you have any concerns at all you should always follow your organisation’s safeguarding policies and procedures. This will often mean reporting your concerns to your manager or safeguarding.

Explain the actions to take if an individual alleges that they are being abused. If you work for a company or agency there should be policies and procedures already in place to follow most would state to report to the appropriate person, record the facts on appropriate paperwork, listen and do not judge. Always establish what it is that has occurred and report any suspicions to the appropriate manager. Reassure the individual at all times and take every allegation seriously. Always date the paperwork and have it signed by any witnesses. Take photographs of evidence if possible.

Cite this page

How to Recognise Signs of Abuse. (2020, May 10). Retrieved from

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