Adult Abuse can happen to any individual whose personal characteristics and/or life circumstances may increase their exposure to harm, either because they are unable to protect themselves or their situation provides opportunities for others to neglect, exploit or abuse them.
It doesn’t matter what gender, race or sexuality they are. It is NEVER their fault.
This crime can often be committed by someone the victim knows and trusts, but sometimes it can be committed by a stranger seeking to exploit their vulnerability.
An ‘Adult at risk of harm’ is a person aged 18 or over, whose exposure to harm through abuse, exploitation or neglect may be increased by their:
(i) Personal characteristics (may include, but are not limited to age, disability, illness, physical or mental infirmity and impairment of, or disturbance in, the functioning of the mind or brain);
(ii) Life circumstances (may include, but are not limited to, isolation, socio-economic factors and environmental living conditions);
NB: Persons with alcohol dependency or drug addiction are not viewed as an Adult at risk of harm unless they also have a mental illness or disability etcetera.
An ‘Adult in need of protection’ is an adult at risk of harm (above)
(i) Who is unable to protect their own well-being, property, assets, rights or other interests; and
(ii) Where the action or inaction of another person or persons is causing, or is likely to cause, him/her to be harmed.
Protecting and safeguarding adults at risk of harm is an important role of not only the police service, but all members of Northern Ireland society. It is the way in which we protect and respond to some of the most vulnerable members of our society that we and other agencies are to be judged.
Primary responsibility for safeguarding adults at risk of harm rests with their family and/or statutory health agencies, it is also the duty of every member of the police service to safeguard and protect adults at risk of harm, and to assist our colleagues in Health and Social Care (HSC) in the exercise of their duty in investigating whether an adult at risk of harm is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.
Collaboration between agencies is essential, but support from society in dealing with this crime is vital.
‘Harm’ is the impact on the victim of abuse, exploitation or neglect. It is the result of any action whether by commission or omission, deliberate or as the result of a lack of knowledge or awareness which may result in the impairment of physical, intellectual, emotional, or mental health or well-being. Some harmful conduct may constitute a criminal offence or professional misconduct.
‘Abuse’ is ‘a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to another individual or violates their human or civil rights’. It is the misuse of power and control that one person has over another. Abuse may be perpetrated by a wide range of people who are usually physically and/or emotionally close to the individual and on whom the individual may depend and trust.
- Physical abuse: The use of physical force or mistreatment of one person by another which may not result in actual physical injury. This may include hitting, pushing, rough handling, exposure to heat or cold, force feeding, improper administration of medication, denial of treatment, misuse or illegal use of restraint and deprivation of liberty.
- Sexual violence and abuse: Any behaviour perceived to be of a sexual nature which is unwanted or takes place without consent or understanding. Sexual violence and abuse can take many forms and may include non-contact sexual activities, such as indecent exposure, stalking, being made to look at or be involved in the production of sexually abusive material, or being made to watch sexual activities. It may involve physical contact, including non-consensual penetrative sexual activities or non-penetrative sexual activities, such as intentional touching (also known as groping). Sexual violence can be found across all sections of society, irrelevant of gender, age, ability, religion, race, ethnicity, personal circumstances, financial background or sexual orientation.
- Psychological / emotional abuse: Psychological / emotional abuse is behaviour that is psychologically harmful or inflicts mental distress by threat, humiliation or other verbal/non-verbal conduct. This may include threats, humiliation or ridicule, withholding security, love or support, provoking fear of violence, shouting, yelling and swearing, blaming, controlling, intimidation and coercion.
- Financial abuse: Financial abuse is actual or attempted theft, fraud or burglary. It is the misappropriation or misuse of money, property, benefits, material goods or other asset transactions which the person did not or could not consent to, or which were invalidated by intimidation, coercion or deception. This may include exploitation, embezzlement, withholding pension or benefits or pressure exerted around wills, property or inheritance.
- Institutional abuse: Institutional abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of an adult, by a regime or individuals, in settings within which adults who may be at risk reside or use. Institutional abuse may occur when the routines, systems and regimes result in poor standards of care, poor practice and behaviours, inflexible regimes and rigid routines which violate their dignity and human rights and place adults at risk of harm. Institutional abuse may occur within a culture that denies, restricts or curtails the privacy, dignity, choice and independence. It involves the collective failure of a service provider or an organisation to provide safe and appropriate services, and includes a failure to ensure that the necessary preventative and/or protective measures are in place.
‘Neglect’ is the deliberate withholding, or failure through a lack of knowledge, understanding or awareness, to provide appropriate and adequate care and support which is necessary for the adult to carry out daily living activities. It may include physical neglect to the extent that health or well-being is impaired, administering too much or too little medication, failure to provide access to appropriate health or social care, withholding the necessities of life, such as adequate nutrition, heating or clothing, failure to intervene in situations that are dangerous to the person concerned or to others particularly when the person lacks the capacity to assess risk. Note that self-neglect and self-harm do not fall within the scope of this definition.
‘Exploitation’ is the intentional maltreatment, manipulation or abuse of power and control over another person; to take selfish or unfair advantage of another person or situation usually but not always for personal gain from using them as a commodity. It may manifest itself in many forms including slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, domestic violence and abuse, sexual violence and abuse, or human trafficking.
The types of abuse or harmful conduct are not exhaustive, nor listed in any order of priority. There are other indicators which should not be ignored. It is also possible that if a person is being harmed in one way, he/ she may very well be experiencing harm in other ways.
For further information on the law go to www.legislation.gov.uk
- Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007 (link)
- Adult Safeguarding Policy for Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding: Prevention and Protection in Partnership’(link)
- Recognise that it is happening
- Accept that you are not to blame
- Get help and support
- Get advice about your legal rights and protection
- We are here to help you. We will investigate any incident and take action where there is sufficient evidence.
- We will protect you and others from immediate or future harm
- We will give you information about criminal proceedings and how we will handle the situation
- We will give you information on local support agencies who can help you
- We have dedicated Public Protection Officers in your local area
If you, or someone you know has been the victim of adult abuse, whether recently or in the past, or if you are the relative of an individual this has happened to:
- Report the matter directly to the police service on ‘101’ the non-emergency number, and you will be put in contact with a specially trained police officer who will speak to you, or
- In an emergency situation dial the police emergency number ‘999’
It is important to tell us what has happened so that we can try and prevent the same thing happening to you again or to someone else.
Whilst it is our responsibility to investigate your allegation, your welfare and/or the welfare of other named individuals will always come first.
Your local GP can offer help and support. Many people experiencing abuse believe that their GP can be trusted with knowing what is happening to them and can offer practical support.
Social Services can provide practical assistance and guidance to those suffering abuse.
For further help and advice see Useful links and Support Agencies below.