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What to do if you think someone is at risk of abuse

Some people don't want to tell others that they are being abused. This may be because they don't want the person to get into trouble. They may prefer to ignore the problem in the hope that it will go away. Other people are ashamed or afraid of what will happen to them if they tell.

If you think you are being abused, rest assured that it is not your fault and that there are ways in which you can get help. Don't ignore the problem; it will probably not go away on its own.

Getting help from the police

Where the abuse is also a crime - such as assault, racial harassment, rape or theft - call the local police non-emergency number on 101. But if you believe someone is in immediate danger, dial 999.

If you cannot make voice calls, you can now contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone. However, you will only be able to use this service if you have registered with emergencySMS first. See the emergencySMS website for details. 

In less urgent cases, you can contact the police without using the emergency 999 service:

  • call the central police reporting line on 0300 123 12 12 or ring 101 (the police non-emergency number) to report a previous incident
  • visit your local police station - which you can find here

Getting help from social services

If you don't think you need immediate help from the police or are worried about calling them, then you can call social services. It's important to remember that if you are being abused, it is not your fault. Please don't worry about telling others that you think you're being abused - it's important that you get help.

If you want, you can ask someone else to contact social services on your behalf. Your call can remain anonymous and everything you say will be kept confidential.

  • To report an adult safeguarding concern, call 0345 603 7634, or if out of hours, call 0345 606 1212
  • Details about reporting a child safeguarding concern can be found on the Children at Risk of Abuse and Neglect page on the Essex County Council website.

What will happen next?

A member of social services staff will talk to you as quickly as possible.

They will usually ask your permission (or the permission of the vulnerable person you're worried about) before they do anything, or share any information about the situation with other people.

The only exceptions to this are in situations where others may also be at risk of abuse, or if the person is not able to make their own decisions because of mental disability.

Further information from the council's safeguarding team

The county council have safeguarding teams for both adults and children:

These websites include contact details to report concerns about abuse whether you are a professional or a member of the public.

The adults website also includes a copy of the Southend, Essex and Thurrock Safeguarding Adults Guidelines, which you can read online or download. The procedures and guidance in these guidelines now reflect current practice. So if you're a professional working with vulnerable adults, it's important that you're familiar with the content.

Victim Support

Victim Support is the national independent charity that offers support to victims of crime.

They will help by providing you with information, practical help and emotional support, and do this by:

  • always prioritising your safety
  • giving you time to think and to make decisions
  • offering continued support whatever decisions you make
  • putting you in touch with other agencies that can help, for example with housing, benefits and legal advice
  • helping you to explore your options for dealing with the aftermath of the crime

Their services are confidential, free and available to everyone.

Victim Support accepts referrals from official and other organisations as well as self-referrals from individuals themselves, whether or not you want to report the crime to the police and regardless of when it happened.

You can call Victim Support using their national support line number 0808 168 9111; from 9am - 9pm weekdays and 9am - 7pm weekends. Or you can email

Other information and advice

Action on Elder Abuse aims to prevent abuse of older people by raising awareness, and by education, promotion, research, collection and dissemination of information.

The This is Abuse website provides specialist advice on what to do if you find yourself in an abusive relationship with your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities has produced an easy-read leaflet called 'Loneliness and Cruelty' in which people with learning disabilities describe their experience of harassment, abuse and related-crime in the community.

The Easy Health website has gathered together various  easy-read leaflets and videos which will help people with learning disabilities to understand what abuse is, and to know what to do if they think they are being subjected to abuse.

Mencap have produced an easy-read fact sheet about bullying.They have also arranged a campaign against the bullying of young people with learning disabilities called Don't Stick It and have made a campaign action sheet available to help your community to take action against disablist bullying in your area. 

Our colleagues at Suffolk County Council have produced an excellent video which explains more about abuse and neglect, and may be particularly helpful for people with learning disabilities or dementia.


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