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Staying safe

Physical abuse

Physical abuse can be defined as non-accidental harm to the body. Physical abuse can also occur when people are not provided with adequate care or support, causing them unjustifiable discomfort, and can include:

  • unwarranted and inappropriate restraint
  • forced isolation or confinement and
  • the withholding of necessary aids
  • the improper administration of drugs or treatments
  • the denial of prescribed medication

Examples of physical abuse

  • Being hit, shaken, pinched, punched, slapped, pushed, pulled or dragged.
  • Being burned or scalded
  • Being inappropriately restrained, restricted, confined or locked up
  • Being deprived of food, being forced to eat or having food tampered with
  • Medication used inappropriately, being given medication intended for someone else, medication being withheld
  • Necessary aids and adaptations, including glasses and hearing aids being withheld or withdrawn
  • Being photographed without consent including for medical purposes
  • Having no choice about living with, or spending time with people who behave in a threatening or aggressive manner or who carry out physical assaults
  • Being caused unreasonable physical discomfort through the withholding of care or the application of inappropriate treatment
  • a history of unexplained or repeated falls or minor injuries
  • multiple bruising in well protected areas e.g. inside of thighs, upper arms, on soft parts of the body not over bony prominences, bruises at various stages of healing, bruises clustered from repeated strikes, finger marks
  • burns, especially if in unusual places e.g. inside of thighs or buttocks
  • cigarette / cigar burns, immersion burns, patterned burns, e.g. like an iron or rope burns
  • injury shape similar to an object
  • unexplained fractures, dislocations or sprains
  • person appears frightened or subdued in the presence of particular people or objects
  • sleep deficit, unexplained fatigue
  • injuries to head or scalp
  • marks of physical restraint
  • evidence of over or under use of medication
  • person flinches at physical contact
  • person asks not to be hurt
  • reluctance to undress or uncover parts of the body
  • person may repeat what perpetrator has said, e.g. "shut up or I'll hit you"
  • medical problems going unattended, reluctance to visit the GP