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.
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.
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:
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.
[Warning: These podcasts discuss people’s personal experiences of abuse, with occasional graphic content.]
[Warning: These videos are intended to raise awareness of different forms of abuse. Some include occasional graphic content.]
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.