The different types of abuse - The Handy Guide

Abuse comes in many forms

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Summary Information

Abuse can come in many forms and anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship.

Violence and physical abuse are just one form of abuse. Abuse can also be sexual, financial, or spiritual. Exploitation, coercive control, neglect, failure to protect and care for children are all part of the landscape of abuse.

This website focuses on Domestic Abuse; abuse that develops and is sustained within intimate family relationships. Abuse also happens in other environments and relationships.

There are also three populations who can be especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, these are children, older people and people with reduced decision-making capacity.

Abuse of children and young people

There are 4 types of child abuse identified under Queensland law:

  • physical
  • sexual
  • emotional
  • neglect.

Child abuse can be a single incident or several incidents that take place over time.

The Queensland Child Protection Act 1999 focuses on the impact of the abuse on the child, rather than how often the abuse has occurred. In particular, whether the child has or is suffering significant harm, or is at risk of suffering significant harm. The Act also looks at whether a child who has been harmed has a parent who is able and willing to protect them.

Child abuse can have lifelong impacts but, like other forms of abuse, can sometimes be difficult to identify. This resource provides more information about the identification and impact of child abuse. Keep in mind that not all children who experience or witness abuse show immediate behavioural impacts and that the full impact of these experiences may not emerge for months or years.

Elder abuse

Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person. It impacts on women much more than men and most reported abuse is by the victim’s. Elder Abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect.

This report produced by United Care Queensland provides lots of information about the nature of elder abuse reports in Queensland during 2000/21.

Like other forms of abuse, Elder Abuse is often associated with isolation and dependence of the person subject to abuse. The fear and shame experienced by victims can be as painful as the abuse itself.

These short videos show the range of situations where elder abuse can occur.

There are a number of services specifically focused on assisting people subject to elder abuse.

Abuse of other vulnerable people

Younger adults with limited decision making are, like older people, also vulnerable to abuse.

In Queensland the Office of the Public Guardian has a unique role in protecting adults with impaired decision-making capacity and this can extend in some situations to making personal, health and legal decisions (not related to property or finance) if the Public Guardian is appointed as the person’s guardian or attorney.

The Public Guardian also investigates allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation. Find out more about the role of the Public Guardian.