There are certain characteristics that might mean that a person is more likely to be a victim of abuse or more likely to perpetrate abuse. The following are general indictors that, if present, may make the risk of abuse occurring more likely but do not on their own show that abuse has occurred or will occur.
- Has communication difficulties
- Rejects help
- Has unusual or offensive behaviours
- Has abusive or aggressive behaviours
- Does not consider the needs of the carer and other family members
- Is socially isolated i.e. does not have other friends or visitors
- Is dependent on the carer for financial purposes
- Is highly dependent on the carer for physical and/or psychological care
However, often it is not the behaviour of the victim or vulnerable person that matters but the way the way it is perceived and the quality of the relationship. The risk is greatest where the relationship or prevailing climate is cold or clinical or the abuser has little or no insight or understanding of the person’s needs or condition.
For instance, increasing deafness may be understood by one person as a sign of a person’s condition or age; by another as a sign that that the person is deliberately ignoring or provoking them.
The stresses of caring can sometimes give rise to abuse. This is generally more likely where one or more of the following apply.
- Has unmet or unrecognised needs of their own
- Is themselves vulnerable
- Has little insight or understanding of the vulnerable person’s condition or needs
- Has unwillingly had to change his or her lifestyle
- Is not receiving practical and/or emotional support from other family members
- Is feeling emotionally and socially isolated, undervalued or stigmatised
- Has other responsibilities e.g. family, work
- Has no personal or private space or life outside the caring environment
- Has frequently requested help but the problems have not been solved
- Is being abused by the vulnerable person
- Feels unappreciated by the vulnerable person or exploited by relatives or services
- Is reliant on the vulnerable person for financial assistance or has financial difficulties
- Is under stress due to poor income or housing conditions
- Roles have been reversed, where, for example, a domineering parent becomes dependent
- Suffers severe stress or is exhausted through lack of sleep and or heavy physical demands
- A mental health or personality problem
- Addiction to alcohol or drugs
- A history of violence or abuse including domestic abuse
- Previous relationship problems
- Poor family relationships where violence is the norm
- Financial problems because of low income or debt problems
Where an incident of abuse has occurred in the home or family environment the outlook is generally far better if the incident is isolated, there are no indicators of other forms of abuse and the relationship is genuinely warm and caring. The outlook is poorer where the relationship or environment is cold, punitive or unreliable.
Where possible consideration should be given to the needs of the carer and their circumstances when thinking about how the risk of abuse can be minimized.