In the early 1970′s Peg West, a school social worker in Madison Wisconsin USA, noticed some children were coming to her for help. All of them seemed to be telling her in one way or another how they were not feeling safe.

Peg realised something needed to be done to help these children and so she started to work with the school psychologist, Joan Levy and a close friend Donna Fortin. All three women started to devise a programme to help children recognise when they did not feel safe and to explore what they could do about it. Through networks and sharing the ideas with many people the programme evolved. Peg and her colleagues consulted with survivors, professionals, friends, colleagues and anyone who could offer some support and advice.

Over the next few years the programme was refined and developed into the Themes, Concepts and Strategies we call Protective Behaviours (PBs) and still use today. Although there has been some expansion work on context and refinement of the ideas, the core process remains virtually the same today as it was in 1975.

In USA the use of Protective Behaviours has mainly been in Wisconsin where the schools were mandated to teach all children some form of abuse prevention. This was quite radical considering it was at the time when abuse issues were only just starting to come to light and be spoken about in the community. Thus the use of PBs in those days was mainly confined to these issues although individuals used the ideas in other ways as well.

In Australia in the early 1980′s a person who worked with survivors of sexual assault, Philomena Horsley wrote to then Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Mr Mick Miller, asking: Why were they teaching stranger danger in the schools when their own statistics showed that less than 4% of abuse was perpetrated by strangers?

The letter was sent to the Research and Development Department (R&D) where a forward thinking Inspector, Barbara Oldfield realised something needed to be done. Insp. Oldfield called a meeting of people who had an interest in the topic. This group was open to anyone and included survivors of abuse, workers in the field including teachers, social welfare, psychologists, doctors, lawyers, police and other interested people. They formed an organization called the Crime Prevention, Education and Consultancy Group, (CPECG). The people in this group looked at many programmes from Australia and overseas that were specifically designed for the prevention of sexual assault.

One day, as is the way, a worker from R&D (then Sgt) Vicki Fraser, attended a national conference on child abuse and met a person there who was also interested in prevention. This person lent Sgt Fraser a manual they had found but not had time to read. Sgt Fraser could see this manual was excellent and showed it to CPECG where everyone realised this was the one they had been searching for. Protective Behaviours was an empowerment process that covered all forms of abuse and could be used with anyone in a variety of ways.

Because of the excitement generated by finding such a simple and yet profound process, CPECG invited Peg Flandreau West to come to Australia. This original training in 1985 was very well received in most states and so the nucleus of Protective Behaviours (PB) in Australia was born. From these humble beginnings and using the PB concept of Networking, Protective Behaviours has developed in different ways in each state.

The overwhelming emphasis has been on using the process as a programme with children in schools to prevent abuse. This also reflects what happened in the USA and the reason for the programme being developed in the first instance.

Protective Behaviours came to the UK in 1990 through a connection with Police in Australia and England. Di Margetts, about to visit UK, was asked to call in at Milton Keynes Police and explain to them how the process worked. Having done this Di was then asked to conduct a workshop before returning to Australia. Enthusiasm for the ideas was so great, many people who attended the initial day in Milton Keynes are still actively involved with PBs today.

At first the process was used by police schools liaison officers, Chris Harman and Alan Dawson, as an alternative to stranger danger and for citizenship lessons. After further visits and more training, the process started to generate interest from many other groups. As word spread about the value and uses of PBs, people in other areas in UK wanted training. There are now active PBs individuals and groups in places all over England, Scotland, Eire and Northern Ireland using the process in so many different ways. (Please see links below to groups and also the trainer section on this website).

It is also during the years since 1990 the contextual development of the process occurred. This came about as a result of Di working in many countries with a variety of professional groups and hearing the same issues being raised by so many different people. These developments include understanding the origins and effects of unwritten rules thus putting PBs into a social context. Next came the recognition of how our feelings and thoughts interact with and influence our behaviour giving us an understanding of the bridge between the external rules and internal feelings of safety. In addition Di developed the model for understanding the importance of language in the context of the PB themes and our right to feel safe.

It is through these developments Protective Behaviours is increasingly becoming integrated into many areas of work including; parent support, counselling, abuse prevention, crime prevention, PSHE work, sex and relationship education, empowerment programmes, peer support, restorative justice and restorative practices, drug education, working with children, adolescents, adults of many faiths, abilities and lifestyles.


© Di Margetts
International Consultant Trainer
Protective Behaviours