What is Physical Abuse?

Physical abuse includes hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, restraint, and misuse of medication.

It might also involve improper use of sanctions, particularly those that involve physical restraint.

Instances of physical abuse can be isolated incidents. Or they could be ongoing. Both cases are serious, and both warrant investigation and action.

Who Might Physically Abuse Adults?

Anyone who comes into contact with adults could potentially resort to physical abuse. This includes:

  • Spouses, friends, family and neighbours.
  • Paid staff or professionals.
  • Volunteers.
  • Strangers and other members of the public.

Even those employed to provide care might carry out physical abuse.

A major reason why physical abuse is such a difficult reason is that literally anyone can become an abuser. All it takes is one instance of physical abuse for it to become a problem.

Learn to Spot the Signs of Physical Abuse

There are a number of physical signs to look out for:

  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Restraint or grip markings
  • Black eyes
  • Unusual behaviour, such as repeated trips to the hospital

Many victims of physical abuse may feel responsible for their abuse. Or they may fear the shame of discovery, or further attacks from their abuser. As such, they may attempt to cover up the marks left by the abuse. So you should also be on the lookout for signs that the person has something they’re trying to hide. For example, they may wear more makeup than usual to cover a bruise. Or they may take to wearing long-sleeved tops, even in warm weather.

Warning Signs of a Culture of Abuse

Sometimes physical abuse is an isolated incident. But in more extreme cases it can be an everyday part of a toxic culture or environment, as seen in reports of organisational abuse.

Sometimes, the behaviour of others may indicate that physical abuse is taking place. Here are a few warning signs:

  • Name-calling, put-downs, aggressive behaviour and threats
  • Restricted movements (for instance, the abuser may prevent them from attending work or school)
  • Restricted access to money
  • An attitude of overt jealousy or possessiveness
  • A delay between the time of injury and the seeking of treatment

Read our guide to organisational abuse for further signs that abuse may be endemic in a care setting.

How to Deal With Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is a serious issue, even if it only happens once. There’s no excuse for it, and everyone has a right to live a life free of abuse.

If you suspect that someone you know is suffering from physical abuse, get in touch. We’ll help you find the support you need. Call us on 0115 951 5400.

If you think someone is in immediate danger, call the police on 999. 

You can read about the other types of harm.


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