Physical Abuse

What is Physical Abuse?

Physical abuse is an act of violence or force that causes bodily harm to someone else, typically in the form of physical discomfort, impairment, injury or pain. A person does not have to show signs of an injury or bruises to have experienced physical abuse.

Spotting the Signs of Physical Abuse

  • Black eyes
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Cuts
  • Restraint or grip markings
  • Unusual pattern of injury; repeated trips to Accident and Emergency.

While these signs of physical abuse may seem obvious, most victims may try to cover them up so as to hide the abuse due to fear of further abuse or shame about the abuse (particularly in instances of domestic abuse).

While the above signs of physical abuse are visible, other signs of physical abuse may be more subtle. These may include:

  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Anxiety, including panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Fearfulness
  • Pelvic pain; vaginal or urinary tract infections
  • Sexual problems
  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Unwanted pregnancy; lack of prenatal care
  • Vague medical complaints such as chronic headaches, fatigue or stomach pain
  • Injuries are inconsistent with the account of how they happened
  • No explanation of how injuries happened
  • Injuries are inconsistent with their lifestyle
  • Multiple bruising / marks on the body including slap marks and finger marks
  • A history of unexplained falls/minor injuries
  • Injuries at different stages of healing
  • Burns (especially if they are inconsistent with the lifestyle of the adult)
  • Immersion burns or rope burns on arms, legs or torso
  • Induced injuries or physical symptoms that are falsely claimed or exaggerated on behalf of the adult at risk by a paid or unpaid carer to attract treatment
  • Misuse of medication (e.g. excessive repeat prescriptions)
  • Unexplained loss of hair in clumps
  • Cuts that are not likely to be a result of self-injury
  • Subdued behaviour in the presence of a carer
  • Being left in wet clothing or bedding
  • Malnutrition when the adult at risk is not living alone
  • Seeking medical treatment too late or not at all.

Domestic Abuse

Physical abuse is often linked to domestic abuse (although violence is not always a factor in abusive relationships). To learn more, read Domestic Abuse.

Incidents Between Residents

Incidents between Residents typically occurs in care homes. The individual(s) may not have mental capacity, but It may be that one resident hits another resident for example. Each incident should be dealt with on a case by case basis. For further guidance and information, read Local Policies, Strategies and Procedures.

Medication Incidents

A medication incident is an error in the process of prescribing, dispensing, preparing, administering, monitoring or providing medicine advice, regardless of whether any harm occurred. This can occur in hospital settings, care providers as well as a person’s own home if someone else is administering medication on their behalf.

There are various processes in place within adult health and social care settings to help prevent medication errors from occurring. Improving people’s awareness of changes to legislation, guidelines and sharing good practice are also key to prevention.

Medication incidents can also be linked to Neglect and Acts of Omission and Organisational Abuse. To find further information and guidance relating to medication incidents visit Local Policies, Strategies and Procedures


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