Adult Carers

I am being abused
and / or controlled by the person I care for

Abuse can happen anywhere, to anybody and by anyone. But it is more likely to happen where it can be kept hidden – against someone who is vulnerable, dependent, or isolated –and by someone who is in a close relationship with the person being abused. Abuse may happen as a one-off incident, or it could happen regularly over a long period of time. Abuse can sometimes be unintentional, but in most cases the abuser means to cause harm or to control the person being abused.

What is Abuse?

The charity, Carers First, explains that abuse can come in many different forms. If someone is being abused, they could be affected by one or more of these at the same time.

  • Physical abuse involves anything that causes physical harm. It includes being hit, slapped, punched, pushed, kicked, burnt, or otherwise physically assaulted, being retrained inappropriately or unnecessarily, being locked in a room, etc.
  • Sexual abuse involves any unwanted act of a sexual nature. It could include sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, indecent exposure, online sexual abuse, inappropriate or unwanted looking or touching, etc.
  • Psychological abuse involves inflicting psychological or emotional harm. This could include being denied choice, privacy or dignity; being humiliated, controlled, intimidated or coerced; being threatened with physical abuse or abandonment; being prevented from seeing other people; being verbally abused or bullied, etc. Psychological abuse rarely leaves physical signs behind, but it can be psychologically devastating.
  • Financial abuse is when someone’s actions cause financial harm. This could include having your money or valuables stolen or misused by someone you’ve trusted to look after them; being coerced into spending your money in ways you don’t want to, including in your Will; restrictions being put on your access to your money, property or employment opportunities, etc.
  • Discriminatory abuse involves any actions, comments, name-calling, or jokes that are racist, sexist, ageist, or homophobic.
  • Domestic abuse is any of the types of abuse listed above, carried out by a current or former intimate partner or family member.

Another form of abuse is called coercive control. The charity, Women’s Aid, defines coercive control as ‘an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim’. The aim of coercive control is to make a person dependent, by isolating them from family, friends and other supports; depriving them of independence; and controlling their everyday behaviour. Like psychological abuse, coercive control often has no physical signs. However, coercive control is a recognised form of abuse and, like other forms of abuse, is now illegal in the UK. Examples of coercive behaviour include:

  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
  • Monitoring your time
  • Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
  • Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear, and when you can sleep
  • Depriving you of access to support services, including medical services
  • Repeatedly putting you down – telling you you’re worthless
  • Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you
  • Controlling your finances
  • Making threats or intimidating you

Although it is more common for women to be abused by men, it is also possible for men to be abused by women or other men.

If you are being abused by the person you care for, it is important that you talk to someone about it.

This might seem hard to do. Perhaps you are afraid that it will make things worse, or you may feel worried about what will happen to you or the person you care for if you speak to someone else about it. You may feel embarrassed or ashamed about what has happened, or perhaps you think the person you care for is not to blame for their actions because their medical condition means they are in pain, scared, resentful or upset. You may also be concerned that you won’t be taken seriously or believed.

However, abuse is never acceptable, regardless of what the other person may be dealing with themselves. In addition, if you have children or teenagers living in your household – whether or not they are being abused themselves – if they are aware of another family member being abused, this can have serious long-lasting impacts on them.

Action you can take right now

If you are experiencing abuse, deciding what to do can take time. However, an important first step is to tell someone. Abuse of any kind is wrong. Everyone has the right to live safely and without fear of harm or intimidation. The best way to stop abuse from happening anymore is to talk to someone who can help.

  • If you are not in immediate danger, you could start by speaking to someone you trust, such as a friend, relative or colleague. Try to pick someone you think will be understanding of your situation and will act quickly, decisively, and sensitively on what you tell them.
  • You should also speak to a professional. You could start with your GP – or the GP of the person you are caring for. Let them know what’s been happening and the impact it is having on you. Ask for their help to make it stop. You could also speak to one of the Rights and Engagement Officers at the Angus Carers Centre.
  • You may also wish to contact your local authority social work department. As a carer, you have certain rights, and your local social work department can play a role in supporting you.
  • If you’d prefer to speak to someone confidentially in the first instance, you could phone a free helpline. (Several are listed below.)

More Information





[Warning: These podcasts discuss people’s personal experiences of abuse, with occasional graphic content.]

  • I wasn’t allowed to look out of the window. Domestic abuse and disability: Part One, Ouch!, BBC Sounds (35 minutes) – Three women discuss their experiences of domestic abuse and how they survived.
  • Financial abuse, Money Box, BBC Sounds (29 minutes) – Personal stories of facing up to, and recovering from financial abuse.
  • Coercive control, 5 Live Investigates, BBC Sounds (50 minutes) – Controlling or coercive behaviour was made illegal at the end of 2015. More than a year after it was introduced, 5 live Investigates has new data which reveals how often the new law is being implemented. This podcast includes stories from survivors.
  • Emotional abuse with Holly Bourne, Radio 1’s Life Hacks – Adapt the World, BBC Sounds (36.5 minutes) – Discussion of coercive behaviour, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and emotionally abusive relationships.



[Warning: These videos are intended to raise awareness of different forms of abuse. Some include occasional graphic content.]

Where to get more help

Here is a list of free helplines that you could phone if you would prefer to speak to someone anonymously in the first instance.

If you are in an emergency situation, phone 999.


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