Physical abuse is deliberately hurting or injuring someone. This could include hitting, smacking, pushing, shaking, spitting, pinching, scalding, misusing medication, inappropriate restraint, inappropriate physical punishments or other ways of causing physical harm.

There may not be a single sign or symptom to look out for, but possible indicators of physical abuse can include:

  • no explanation of injuries or inconsistency with the account of what happened
  • injuries inconsistent with the person’s lifestyle
  • bruising:
    • on one or both arms (like a series of finger marks) which may indicate the person has been shaken, grabbed, or restrained
    • of one or both of the inner thighs (may indicate sexual abuse)
    • that goes all the way around arms, legs or torso (may indicate that a person has been physically restrained)
    • that is multi-coloured (indicating that they were sustained over time)
  • cuts, welts, burns and/or marks on the body or loss of hair in clumps
  • marks on the arms, legs or torso that resemble rope or strap marks
  • frequent injuries
  • unexplained falls
  • subdued or changed behaviour in the presence of a particular person
  • signs of malnutrition
  • failure to seek medical treatment or frequently changing GP
  • withholding or refusing necessary medication