Types of abuse
The Care Act 2014 specifies that freedom from abuse and neglect is a key part of a person’s wellbeing. Abuse takes many forms, and practitioners should not be constrained in their view of what constitutes abuse or neglect.
The guidance outlines specific aims to stop abuse and neglect, prevent harm and address what has caused the abuse.
Domestic abuse can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
- Psychological and Emotional
- Coercive Control
- Elder abuse
- Family and inter-generational abuse
Psychological and emotional violence and abuse
Psychological and emotional violence and abuse has a profound impact on victims and their children. It can leave a victim with little confidence that they can do anything to change the situation. Examples include:
- Creating Isolation e.g. not allowing the victim to see other people, preventing them from making their own friendships, not allowing them to go anywhere on their own, causing them to be depressed and then using this depression against them.
- Use of threats, e.g. threatening to kill their family, children, friends, pets; to throw them out and keep the children; to find them if they ever leave; to have them locked up; to tell everyone they are mad.
- Putting them down – humiliating and undermining them in front of others or in front of their children; telling them they are stupid, hopeless, unlovable, that no one would believe them, or that they are a bad parent.
Physical abuse can include:
- hitting with objects
- pulling hair
- pushing or shoving
- cutting or stabbing
Sexual abuse can include:
- rape and coerced sex
- forcing a victim to take part in unwanted sexual acts
- refusal to practice safe sex or use contraception
- threatened or actual sexual abuse of children
Financial abuse can include:
- controlling money and bank accounts
- making a victim account for all their expenditure
- running up debts in a victim’s name
- allowing no say on how monies are spent
- refusing to allow them to study or work
Coercive and controlling behaviour
In 2014 the Government announced a new domestic abuse offence of coercive and controlling behaviour.
Controlling behaviour includes a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capabilities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is an act or pattern of acts of:
- humiliation and intimidation
- other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim.
This law helps protect victims by outlawing sustained patterns of behaviour that stop short of serious physical violence, but amount to extreme psychological and emotional abuse. Victims of coercive control can have every aspect of life controlled by their partner, often being subjected to daily intimidation and humiliation.
Coercive and controlling behaviour includes any or all of a range of purposeful behaviours including intimidation, isolation, emotional abuse and manipulation. These behaviours are often used to achieve power and control in an abusive relationship, and these behaviours reinforce the threat or reality of physical abuse.
Research has found that domestic abuse is experienced by both women and men regardless of age, disability or ethnic background. Elder abuse can be more detrimental to a victim’s wellbeing due to problems with mobility, mental health and social isolation.
Older people may have come to accept some aspects of domestic abuse as the ‘norm’, depending on their generation. For example, in the past the male of the relationship was traditionally seen as ‘the breadwinner’ and thus have control over the finances and limit their partners’ access to money; we would now accept this as financial abuse.
Family and inter-generational abuse
Domestic abuse approaches have traditionally focused on heterosexual partner abuse, but more recently have addressed abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships.
More focus is required to address family and inter-generational abuse, and how it differs from partner abuse, for example if the perpetrator is the victim’s teenage or adult sibling, child or grandchild.
Careful consideration is required when dealing with family and intergenerational abuse due to the complexities of family composition and safeguarding implications.