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Health and Wellbeing
A Health and Well-being Wales Partner

Abusive relationships frequently occur where there is an unequal balance of power between two people – one person is dependent upon another physically, financially or emotionally (and often all three).

The person who is being abused might not immediately notice the warning signs or be willing to acknowledge that abuse is taking place.

Because abusive behaviour occurs when one person sets out to exert power and control over another, it can arise in different relationships and situations.

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse takes place between couples who are or have been intimate with one another, including heterosexual, gay, bi-sexual and transgender relationships.

Domestic abuse often involves physical violence or the threat of violence; it may also involve sexual, emotional or financial abuse.

Domestic abuse may involve criminal acts, e.g. assault, attempted murder, rape.

Elder abuse

Older people can be at particular risk of physical, emotional and financial abuse, as well as neglect. Sadly, most perpetrators are well-known to the victims, e.g. family members, paid carers or occasionally professionals.

Some forms of elder abuse are criminal, e.g. fraud, theft, assault.

Adults at risk of abuse

Some adults are more at risk of abuse because of learning or physical disabilities, age or illness.

A person’s vulnerability may change over time and will depend on the circumstances.

Vulnerable adults may be at risk of all kinds of abuse, including sexual abuse, neglect and mate crime. Perpetrators may be so-called friends, family members or paid carers.

Child abuse

Sadly, many children grow up being physically, sexually and emotionally abused by the very people who should be protecting them – their parents and family. Neglect, too, is increasingly common.

Child abuse is prevalent in today’s world, so it is important to report any suspected child abuse to the police or your local Safeguarding Team immediately. You do not need to leave your name.

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for cultural rather than medical reasons. It is a cruel, dangerous and painful practice, which is viewed as child abuse in the UK.

FGM is illegal, irrespective of cultural background.

Bullying and cyberbullying

Bullying is often associated with children; however, bullying can take place at any age and many people are bullied in the workplace.

Bullying may involve face-to-face intimidation, unfair treatment, the spreading of malicious rumours and constantly picking on someone. Online or cyberbullying is extremely common.

Bullying itself is not a crime but harassment is illegal under the Equality Act 2010.

Hate crime

Hate crime is a term used to describe any criminal offence that is perceived by the victim, or someone else, as being motivated by prejudice or hate. Hate crime includes disability hate crime and mate crime.

Hate crime is frequently low-level and non-criminal (though still very upsetting for the victims); however, some hate incidents are criminal offences, e.g. sexual assault.


Stalking is on the increase – and it is illegal.

Stalking does not necessarily have to involve someone following you. A stalker may be someone who continually harasses you, whether that is in person, by telephone or on social media. Cyberstalking involves using the internet and social media to pursue and harass someone.

Forced marriage

A forced marriage is one where one or both people do not consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used to enable the wedding to go ahead.

Forced marriage is illegal in Wales.

Safeguarding is everyone’s business

Abuse is never acceptable. If you think you are being abused or you suspect someone else is being abused, please don’t keep it to yourself.

Seek help from a specialist support agency, ring the police on 101 or contact your council’s local Safeguarding Team. In an emergency, always call 999.

Last updated: 02/05/2023