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Protective Behaviours

Protective Behaviours (PBs) is a practical and down-to-earth approach to personal safety made up of two Themes and seven supporting Strategies. 

It originated in the 1970s and has evolved to be used in a wide range of settings and by a variety of people. It is being used by Police, Social Services, residential care services, domestic violence services, mediation practitioners, counselling agencies, probation workers, youth workers, schools, disability service workers. 

The process is used in many ways including managing challenging behaviour, bullying prevention, crime prevention, abuse prevention, crisis intervention, counselling, mentoring, assertiveness training, staff development, parent support work, Restorative Justice, mediation and conflict resolution, to name a few. 

The universal ‘we all’ in PB’s  confirms that it can be used by anyone irrespective of their ability, belief system, colour, gender, sexual orientation, profession, age, physical or mental abilities. 

It is a process which encourages self empowerment and brings with it the skills to avoid being victimised. This is achieved by helping people recognise and trust their intuitive feelings (gut reactions - Early Warning Signs) and to develop strategies for self protection.

Theme 1 - 'We all have the right to feel safe all of the time'

  • We explore this theme in detail, carefully looking at the connection between rights and responsibilities. We also take the concepts of blame and punishment out of commonly held ideas associated with responsibilities. Instead, we focus on the 'ability to respond' contained within the meaning of the word. The difference between having a responsibility for ourselves and to others is also examined. 

Theme 2 - 'There is nothing so awful or small we can't talk about it with someone'

  • This theme is also explored in detail. In particular we focus on the ideas and effects of ‘talking’. We encourage everyone to develop their personal networks of support, those people they could turn to if in need. Desired qualities of network people are identified and we examine how we would know if someone has these qualities. Types of networks and ways of letting people know we need to talk with them are also explored. 

UWRs - The Unwritten Rules of Society 

  • We see how certain rules of society have a powerful influence on our choices of behaviour. Whilst these rules can be positive and help to guide our interactions, many of them tell us we should, ought or must behave in a particular way. For instance,  men should not show their feelings, don't grass on your mates, women should look after the children and the house. These rules are not written down, are often contradictory and encourage people to behave in a manner which may leave themselves and others feeling unsafe. 

Feelings, Thoughts and Behaviour 

  • We look at the interaction between our feelings, thoughts and behaviour. We see how feelings are feelings, neither right nor wrong, good nor bad.  We look at how behaviour is a choice with an effect, usually involving others as well as ourselves. Once we are in touch with our feelings it helps free us to use our thinking. Our thinking can influence both our feelings and behaviour.

The Seven PBs Strategies

The two PBs Themes are supported by seven strategies. 

  • The Language of Safety - this is the glue which holds all the Protective Behaviours elements together. It encourages us to use language which is clear, empowering, non-victimising and non-violent. We acknowledge that language is a powerful tool in forming and maintaining a positive self image and healthy relationships. We demonstrate the difference between 'political correctness' (imposed from the outside)  and the PBs Language of Safety where we know, for example, that racist words are never acceptable because someone will be feeling unsafe if we use such language. By using this model we are observing our responsibility to respect the right of other people  to feel safe. 

  • Protective Interruption - any action we take to interrupt or halt any potential or actual unsafe situation, for instance, having the courage to say 'no' when someone is trying to persuade us do something we feel is wrong. 

  • Persistence - persisting in seeking help until we feel safe again and our Early Warning Signs (EWS) have gone. 

  • One Step Removed - using a 'third person' approach for problem solving, to seek assistance or to check out someone’s ideas before making a decision. 

  • Network Review - constantly checking to ensure that our networks are available and still fit our needs. 

  • Risking for a Purpose/Risking to Achieve - deliberately choosing to take a risk which may not feel comfortable but is necessary to achieve a longer term goal, for example, tackling an addiction, changing entrenched patterns of behaviour, saying 'no' to friends. 

  • Theme Re-inforcement - re-inforcing the two themes verbally (the Language of Safety), visually and especially by example.


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