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Disability Abuse


Abuse is any deliberate or unintentional action or lack of action, carried out by a person which causes distress and/or harm to a person. It may cause injury to a person, or loss or damage to a property or assets. Often it may be in a trusted relationship.

Teen boy sits with head on hands looking to right, at camera.
What does abuse look like?

There are many possible behaviours and signs of abuse. Some of these include, but are not limited to:

  • physical abuse: being hit or injured on purpose, restraining someone inappropriately
  • emotional abuse: intimidation, threats, humiliation, extortion, racial, verbal or psychological abuse
  • sexual abuse: involvement in a sexual activity which is unwanted or not understood, unwanted sexual attention
  • neglect: not providing food, clothing, attention or care. Withholding of aids or equipment (continence, walking, hearing, glasses), putting someone at risk of infection, failure to provide access to appropriate health or social care
  • financial abuse: the theft or misuse of money, property or personal possessions and includes any pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance
  • chemical/substance: any misuse of drugs, alcohol, medications and prescriptions, including the withholding of medication and over-medication
Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a term used when abuse is carried out by a person in a trusted relationship. It could be carried out by someone such as:

  • a son or daughter
  • spouse or domestic partner
  • grandchildren
  • friend or
  • neighbour
  • paid or unpaid carer
Senior Man Looking Unhappy Sitting On Side Of Bed At Home With Head In Hands

It is common for elder abuse to be experienced at home, in places visited regularly, or where services or care are accessed. Elder abuse can often be hidden and continue without others suspecting it.

It is important for the broader community to learn about, so they may assist in detection and advocating on behalf of vulnerable people. to protect them from abuse. The South Australian Government publishes useful information to assist people to understand the types and signs of Elder Abuse, what to look for, who is at risk, and when to seek help on their Stop Elder Abuse web page.

Abuse Safeguarding

The Adult Safeguarding Unit of the South Australian Government was created to safeguard the rights of people who are at risk of abuse. From 1 October 2020, this abuse safeguarding extended to the protection of people living with disability. For more information on Adult Abuse Safeguarding, please refer to our web page.

Disability Royal Commission

A Disability Royal Commission was established in April 2019 in response to community concern about widespread reports of violence against, and the neglect, abuse and exploitation of, people with disability. These incidents might have happened recently or a long time ago. The Disability Royal Commission aims to:

  • prevent and better protect people with disability
  • achieve best practice in reporting, investigating and responding to cases
  • promote a more inclusive society that supports people with disability to be independent and live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Sharing experiences of disability abuse with the the Disability Royal Commission helps the Australian Government to stop abuse happening in the future. For more information regarding the Royal Commission, please refer to our web page.

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