Recognizing Abuse and Neglect

Below you will find some signs of abuse and neglect. For more information, please visit our Links and Resources.

Physical Abuse

People may not show signs of being physically abused. 

Physical abuse is a deliberate act of violence, rough treatment, or use of physical force against an adult.
Someone who is being physically abused may show signs of it, but they may not be noticed by others if the victim is hiding the abuse.

Signs and symptoms of physical abuse include:

  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Grip marks
  • Black eyes
  • Unusual pattern or location of injury

Signs that are not so easy to identify:

  • Fearfulness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal from regular activities and social contact

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be as painful and damaging as physical abuse because it diminishes an adult’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth.

Emotional abuse is when a person is verbally assaulted, insulted, yelled at, threatened or humiliated by someone close to them or by a caregiver.

The abuser often confines a person or isolates them by preventing them from having visits from family and friends or by denying them the chance to attend doctor or other personal care appointments.

Signs and symptoms of emotional abuse include:

  • depression
  • fear
  • anxiety
  • behaviour changes when a caregiver enters or leaves the room

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves any sexual behaviour directed toward an adult without that adult’s knowledge and consent. Sexual abuse can happen to people of all ages, including the elderly. Sexual abuse is a way that a person tries to have control over someone and has nothing to do with consenting sex between adults. Sexual abuse is another form of physical and emotional control of one person over another person, and it has nothing to do with consensual sex between adults.

Signs and symptoms of sexual abuse include:

  • Pain, itching or bruises around breasts or genital area
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Sexually transmitted diseases such as venereal disease
  • Vaginal/anal bleeding
  • Depression, withdrawal from regular activities, fear, anxiety

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse involves the improper, illegal or unauthorized use of an adult’s resources for the benefit of another.

Signs and symptoms of financial abuse include:

  • Unpaid bills
  • No money for food, clothing, or medication
  • Unexplained withdrawal of money from someone’s bank account
  • Family member or representative refuses to spend money on the adult’s behalf
  • Possessions disappear
  • Family member or another person forces an adult to sign over Power of Attorney against their own will

Neglect and Self-Neglect

Adults are neglected when a caregiver does not provide the essential daily living needs of an adult dependent upon them, for things such as food, clothing, shelter, bathing, medication, health care, and doctor visits. Self-neglect happens when an adult can no longer take care of their own basic daily living needs.

Signs and symptoms of neglect and self-neglect include:

  • Malnourishment
  • Dehydration
  • Confusion
  • Inappropriate clothing
  • Under or over medication
  • Skin sores
  • Poor hygiene
  • Absence of required aids, canes and walkers