Reviving the Survivor’s sense of Safety and Self-Efficacy through Sensitive and Responsible Personal Safety & Protection Training.
The “revive” team Gerard and Annette are passionate about creating a kind of Mental/Emotional Resuscitation for Survivors of sexual assault or abuse through carefully planned, insightful and sensitive training in personal safety skills.
This training has been tailored for and delivered to: Survivors of Sexual Assault and Violence, Counsellors, Domestic Violence Support Staff, Social Workers and Healthcare workers whose work must address the realities of violence and personal safety attitudes for their clients.
“the atmosphere was very safe which I personally appreciated”
“We really liked the section on awareness and skills”
“everyone liked the info on different components of fear very much. It helped people to feel that it is normal to have that fear reaction, not cowardly but human, and think this will be important message to women.”
“Overall the seminar achieved goals in encouraging women to think differently about safety under attack, and was informative around fear, the brain and the body, and beliefs. The seminar was well-structured and time passed very quickly.”
“I thought the seminar was really useful–I enjoyed that we looked at fear, its different components, identifying yourself in that “loop”. I think examining that aspect rather than purely physical movements is a good idea.”
“I found the discussion on fear to be particularly enlightening. i think a lot of women have lost the ability to trust their own judgment and their intuition and allowing someone to access that again is invaluable.”
“I liked your reminders we are preparing for future, not past”
“Excellent and very worthwhile days training which altered my perception that no woman could defend herself against a man to thinking that with a bit of practice she could.”
The Voice of Experience
Annette is a qualified Functional Edge System Personal Safety Coach. She started her journey in personal safety in 2009 and now offers advice and guidance to survivors, to self-defence trainers and anyone who wants to understand how to help survivors regain their sense of safety after a traumatic event.
“We are brought up socialised and as reasonable people. When surprised by intense violence, often hand in hand with betrayal, the impact is almost too much to bear. Our bodies and minds protect you by burying memories and trauma, and through billions of years of evolution enable you to survive. The psychological impact can be deep rooted and there are many layers to unravel and to heal. If left untreated it can be devastating. Treating the symptoms doesn’t fix the problem. Treating the problem, means reclaiming your body and your mind. To reclaim your body you must feel that you have the power to do so, physically, and mentally. Otherwise you are at the mercy of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as it was once said.”
— Annette, Personal Safety Coach
If you are qualified and experienced personal safety trainer you can keep up with Annette’s observations on her Facebook Page: Survivor Coaching
Putting theory into practice…
Gerard is a professional personal safety trainer, author, speaker and mentor. Since 2006 he has been advocating personal safety training for professionals in healthcare, social care, housing, education and in workplaces all over the world. His passion is still in one-to-one training for individuals who want to transcend their feelings about personal safety and regain their independence from fear of others.
“I believe that every person has the right to feel safe and secure in the presence of others. Traumatic events can often rob survivors of that sense of comfort and safety, but that feeling doesn’t have to remain. Careful training in personal safety can re-build that sense – I have seen it and you can do it!”
How Self-Defence instructors should approach Training For Survivors
Notes from Hard-Earned Experience
It seems that many rape-crisis centres which provide support for survivors of sexual abuse or sexual assault would like to offer some form of personal safety training to their clients. Even so, they also have a great deal of fear about the stereo-typical self-defence teacher.
Their image of self defence instructors seems to be an exact match for “Bob Jackson, 1974 World Champion”, who is going to show them “how easy it can be…after 20 years!”.
Watch this to understand better what I mean….
i.e. he’s a bully, he’s ignorant of the issues and insensitive to what his learners need…and anyway, none of that stuff works in reality.
So, I’m going to share some of my experience from the meetings and discussions over the past, which have taught me a lot about this sector and about how good self-defence coaching can fit the bill:
Starting Personal Safety Training For Survivors 101:
1: NO survivor wants to be told that defending themselves is ‘easy’. The vast majority of survivors have been in a situation where it might have been appropriate to defend themselves, but they couldn’t, or they wouldn’t or they did and the result was less desirable. So don’t tell them its easy, because they know it isn’t so.
2: Rape counsellors generally don’t research fear, aggression and violence – they tend to understand it from their client’s (the survivor’s) perspective only. So, when and if you begin talking about personal defence from a 3-dimensional perspective (emotional, psychological and physical), and explain biological fear (the stress response) versus psychological fear (motivation, visualisation, self-belief), you will be ‘connecting the dots’ for them in a way that is immediately more useful to them.
3: Future Focus: You may need to establish early on – and firmly – that you are not trying to tell people what they should have done. Many survivors experience a lot of trouble with thoughts of blame (“I should have….I could have….”) and if your training is going to help them, then you need to follow our training maxim: “everyone does their best in any given set of circumstances, with the resources they have available to them at the time.” Focus on future-proofing the learners, not dwelling on the past.
4: Normalise Natural Responses: Clarification of the effects of biological fear and psychological fear can have its own drastic impact on the way in incident in the past is re-viewed by an individual survivor. Carefully explaining how fear, aggression and violence impacts the physiology and psychology of EVERY human being can help a survivor to understand that their responses in their confrontations were perfectly valid, perfectly normal.
Col. Dave Grossman: ““the universal human phobia.” – more than anything else in life, it is the potential for intentional, overt, human confrontation that has the greatest ability to modify and influence the behaviour of human beings.
5: Talk about Toolboxes: “Every person responds to the world around them with the resources they have available at the time”. If you knew nothing about fear management, about the biology and psychology of fear, about not denying that what was happening WAS happening, about giving yourself permission to fight back, about accessing your indignation (“I WILL NOT let this happen”)…then whatever response you had was the best you could do at the time. Fighting is the “universal human phobia” and you are quite normal if you acted in a way you now think is strange, or you froze, especially if your toolboxes were empty.
As a personal coaching example: when I once described to a group of survivors that voiding bowels, bladder or stomach was a perfectly natural and normal thing for someone in a life-threatening crisis, a woman in the group had a moment of what can only be described as ‘spriritual relief’…..she realised that vomitting on her sex-attacker was not some kind of oddity, but instead a perfectly ‘normal’ response in the terrifying situation she was in.
6: Leverage the power of abstraction as often as you can. The nature of trauma means that very powerful visualisations, neuro-associations and beliefs have been embedded in your survivors’ minds which can be easily triggered by some stimuli. You can never be sure, when presenting to a group, what those stimuli might be. In a room full of survivors, strong imagery or powerful stories can elicit strong and powerful reactions which you might not be expecting. When talking about the adrenaline response, try to talk about snakes, not hooded attackers. When describing decision-making or motivation, talk about general life challenges or Olympic athletes rather than home-invasion scenarios. They will join the dots, or they will ask you to join the dots, if they want you to. If your imagery is very powerful, expect powerful responses.
7: Check the thermometer with everything – always move towards intensity – in a discussion, in a presentation, in a drill or exercise – in a gradual manner, so that you can see when the topic, content or material is beginning to overwhelm some or all of your audience. If you are checking the temperature like this, it is easier to back off on the intensity. If you jump right in, too heavy/too fast, then you may have just done more harm than good with a vulnerable person.
8: Watch out for Terminology Traps. For example, the words ‘Consent’ or ‘Permission’ (as in: give yourself permission to fight back because the law does!) , can have all sorts of different interpretations and implications in the world of sexual assault survivors. Typically, when explained in the context of limiting beliefs (victorian values, sheltered upbringing, social norms etc.) it becomes a useful talking point. Be prepared to put some serious substance behind your examples, models and terminology.
9: Listen to the feedback. Your audience will (especially if you encourage them) begin to link their experiences to the things you are talking about. If you listen carefully, they’ll tell you how they need to be coached.
- Gavin DeBecker “The Gift of Fear”
- Ellen Snortland “Beauty Bites Beast”
- Dave Grossman “On Combat”
Gerard O’Dea, UK Coach Functional Edge Systems
Accessing training in Personal Safety with a competent, sensitive and qualified professional is a great step forward. Reach out to Gerard and Annette today and we will talk with you about how to best get started, whether as an individual or for your Women’s Aid, Support Service, Shelter or other organisation.
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