What is abuse and exploitation?

Abuse is the violation of an individual's human or civil rights by any other person or persons. Abuse can range from the small act of not treating someone with proper respect to extreme punishment or torture. Abuse can occur within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust and where action, or lack of action, causes harm or distress. The most common forms of abuse are:

  • physical abuse: includes hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, misuse of medication, restraint and force-feeding.
  • sexual abuse: includes rape and sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the adult at risk has not consented, or could not consent, or was pressured into consenting.
  • psychological abuse: includes emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, isolation, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, harassment, verbal abuse, threats or bribes.
  • neglect and acts of omission: failure to provide appropriate care (e.g. food, medication, clothing, heating, cleanliness and hygiene) and denying religious or cultural needs.
  • financial or material abuse: includes theft, fraud or using a person's money, possessions or property without their consent.
  • discriminatory abuse: includes racism, sexism, ageism and discrimination based on a person's disability or sexual orientation.

Abuse may occur in:

  • an adult's home
  • a relative's or friend's home
  • nursing, residential or day care settings
  • hospitals
  • custodial settings
  • any other public place previously assumed safe 

Abuse can occur once, several times, or it can occur many times over a period of days, weeks, months or years.