What is Protective Behaviours?

Protective Behaviours (PB) is a practical, empowering approach to personal safety.  It is a process that encourages and develops self-confidence alongside skills that help us avoid being victimised.  This is achieved by recognising our personal concept of safety, trusting our intuitive feelings (early warning signs) that tell us when we are feeling unsafe and developing strategies for self-protection.  The Protective Behaviours process links safety with fun and excitement and an adventurous approach to life.

Peg West, Donna Fortin and Joan Levy originated the Protective Behaviours program in Wisconsin during the 1970’s.  The process is now used extensively in Australia and throughout the UK by agencies including Social Services, Mental Health Services (CAMHS), Safeguarding Children Boards, Police, NSPCC, Domestic Violence Forums, Schools, Children’s Homes and Children’s Centres.

Protective Behaviours is based on Two Themes, three Core Concepts and Seven Strategies

The first theme ‘We all have the right to feel safe all the time’ incorporates the concepts of ‘Rights and Responsibilities’, ‘Safety’ and ‘Early Warning Signs’.  The second theme ‘There is nothing so awful, or too small, we can’t talk about it with someone’ develops the concept of personal ‘Networks’ of support.  A more recent version of the second theme ‘We can talk with someone about anything, no matter what it is’ is a simpler sentence and suggests a positive ‘We can talk’ message about networking, consistent with the PB process.

The seven ‘Strategies’ of Protective Behaviours are intended to enable us to take necessary action to feel safe again.  They are designed to reinforce the two themes of Protective Behaviours, use one-step-removed approaches in our search for solutions, review our personal networks to ensure they are reliable, use persistence in taking necessary action to feel safe again, risk on purpose as needed, protectively interrupt in unsafe or potentially unsafe situations and observe the language of safety for ourselves and with others.

The Language of Safety has been described as the glue that holds the PB process together.  It encourages us to be mindful of the ‘Quality’ of the language we use, ensuring that we have ‘Shared Meaning’, taking ‘Ownership’ of our language and maintaining ‘Clarity’ in our verbal and non-verbal communication.

In this way the PB process can increase our self-confidence and empower us to enhance our own thinking and problem solving skills.  In turn this can increase our ability to take protective action on our own behalf, and seek the support of others when needed, to help us feel safe again.  When we are feeling safe we are more likely to feel confident, strong and empowered, engage in adventures and live life to the full within a framework of safety.

Overview based on the work of Simon Sneath (UK) PB trainer – 2011