Physical abuse

Physical abuse is any physical pain, suffering or injury wilfully inflicted by a person who has responsibility, charge, care, or custody of, or who stands in a position of or expectation of trust to a vulnerable person.

Typical examples of physical abuse

  • Hitting, slapping, punching and pushing
  • Unreasonable physical restraint
  • Forced medication
  • Hair pulling
  • Physical intimidation
  • Beating
  • Pinching
  • Dragging
  • Physically forcing people to do something against their will
  • Too hot or cold an environment including being ‘put outside’
  • Rough handling
  • Deprivation, withholding food, water, medication or bathing
  • Use of injurious procedures or substances, deliberate exposure to risk or danger
  • Under or over medication.

Possible indicators of physical abuse:

  • Injury incompatible with its explanation
  • Injury which has not been properly cared for (injuries are sometimes hidden on areas of the body normally covered by clothes)
  • Cuts, scratches and lacerations
  • Puncture wounds (particularly on parts of the body which do not normally sustain such injuries)
  • Bruises and discoloration
  • Sprains 
  • Bite marks
  • Fingertip and pinching marks
  • Burns and scalds, including friction burns
  • Signs of hair pulling such as hair loss in one area
  • Any fracture without a satisfactory explanation of accident
  • Poor skin condition and hygiene
  • Untreated pressure sores
  • Ulcers, bedsores, and being left in wet clothing
  • Dehydration and/or malnutrition without illness related cause, and when not living alone
  • Significant weight loss
  • Hypothermia
  • Uncharacteristic behaviour
  • Asks not "to be hurt"
  • Flinches at physical contact
  • Fearfulness
  • Low self esteem
  • Unexplained paranoia
  • Excessive repeated prescriptions or under use or over use of medication
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Accounts of injury by carer varying over time or inconsistent with the nature of the injury
  • A mobile person not being able to get up from their bed or chair for various reasons, eg, being tied in
  • Use of furniture or special chairs to prevent movement, removal of walking aid or specialist equipment
  • Carpet burns (due to falling)increasing immobility
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