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  • Feb12Sat

    Abuse and Misconduct Against Adults

    February 12, 2022 Melodie Bissell
    Filed Under:
    Abuse Awareness
    Photo by Jessie McCall on Unsplash
    Photo by Jessie McCall on Unsplash

    When we speak of abuse against adults, the topic is complex. What makes one vulnerable?      

    According to Brene Brown, “To feel is to be vulnerable, believing that vulnerability is weakness is believing that feeling is weakness.      And like it or not, we are emotional beings: What most of us fail to understand, and what took me a decade of research to learn, is that vulnerability is the cradle of the emotions and experiences that we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, and joy.” 

    We are created in God’s image, and He created us to feel deeply, to experience emotions, and to crave loving and nurturing relationships. 

    Unfortunately, often at the most vulnerable points in our lives, we may be abused and harmed by others. It does not mean we are weak, rather that someone abused their position of power to cause harm. The harm committed by others can injure us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.      

    When we began to expand Plan to Protect® to include adults, we initially thought of the vulnerability of the elderly and those with special needs.   We then saw the need to protect those who are newcomers to Canada, the influx of refugees to our country. More recently we have heard of the stories of fallen leaders that we once looked up to. Their misconduct was directed primarily to women whom they harmed spiritually, physically and emotionally. Their abuses of power deeply harmed the church. The list of fallen leaders is long and unfortunately, new names are added to the list annually. 

    How do we combat and respond to abuse against adults?      

    We begin (as always) by gaining insight and knowledge and awareness of the abuse of power, influence, authority and control. When that power is used to harm an individual and injure another, it is considered abuse. 

    Awareness begins with understanding the definitions of the different forms of abuse.

    Emotional and Psychological Abuse

    Psychological Abuse is the systemic destruction of a person's self-esteem or sense of safety, often occurring in relationships where there are differences in power and control. It includes threats of harm or abandonment, humiliation, deprivation of contact, isolation and other psychologically abusive tactics and behaviours. A variety of terms are used interchangeably with psychological abuse, including emotional abuse, verbal abuse, mental cruelty, intimate terrorism, and psychological aggression. Also, when the abuse occurs in a residential care setting, it is often called systemic or institutional abuse.      

    Spiritual Abuse

    Spiritual Abuse is the use of spiritual or religious language and/or beliefs to unduly influence and exert control over individuals, exploiting them for the apparent benefit of the organization or those in positions of greater authority.

    Financial Abuse

    Financial abuse is the illegal or unauthorized use of someone else's money or property. It includes pressuring someone for money or property.      


    Neglect is not meeting the basic needs of the individual that is dependent on you.

    Active(intentional) neglect: the deliberate withholding of care or the basic necessities of life from an older adult/vulnerable adult for whom one is caring.

    Passive (unintentional) neglect: the failure to provide proper care to an older adult/vulnerable adult due to lack of knowledge, experience or ability, or due to being unaware of how to access local services.

    Physical Abuse/Assault

    Physical abuse is any act of violence or rough handling that may or may not result in physical injury but causes physical discomfort or pain. Physical abuse can be: punching, kicking, shoving, shaking, hitting, slapping, poking, burning, pulling hair, biting, pinching, arm twisting, spitting at someone, confining or restraining a person inappropriately.

    “This may include the inappropriate and/or unwarranted use of physical or chemical restraints.

    Sexual Abuse

    Sexual abuse, also known as sexual assault, is defined as an assault of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim. The Supreme Court of Canada held that the act of sexual assault does not depend solely on contact with any specific part of the human anatomy but rather the act of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim.

    Sexual Harassment is a form of sexual abuse.

    Organizations would benefit from defining abuse and raising awareness of abuse within their policies, procedures and training.

    All human beings are susceptible to abuse one way or another. How then does one best face and respond to their own vulnerability to danger and harm?  We believe it is by one's ability to resist or flee physical or emotional danger. However, for too many, that is not possible. Is it not then critical to have a community that will stand in solidarity with the vulnerable, for that community to be watchful and bold, for that community to be proactive to prevent abuse from occurring, and for that community to be swift in responding to abuse?

    May this be reflective of all of our communities!


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