Personal Defence Methodology - #3. DE-ESCALATION, DIVERSION and DISTRACTION


De-escalation strategies are used to prevent an emotionally charged situation from escalations where they become more severe, potentially physical, conflicts. The term is also used to refer to approaches in conflict resolution. The initial point to emphasise here is that they are learnt, practiced and often complex cognitive and verbal strategies. As such the development of these, as with any learnt capability, takes repeated rehearsal, role playing and evaluation.

The second point to emphasise is that in the context in which we consider these strategies we are already directly in 'harms way'. The idea of using a de-escalation strategy in a situation which starts with physical assault (being caught completely by surprise) is somewhat flawed. The third and related point is that these strategies are only viable in situations where you are aware of the assailant.

Quick revision of Situational Awareness

As covered in previous articles, the only real defence against physical assault is being environmentally aware. There is no substitute physical technique that will work against an assailant who catches you completely by surprise. Not allowing this to happen through avoidance resultant from being aware, alert to the potential dangers and threats, is the only real viable defence.

Generally speaking there are 4 broad categories for attack/threat scenarios:

#1. Immediate Physical Threat

#2. Intended Physical Threat

#3. Undue Attention

#4. Location Threat

The catch all defence of avoidance covers all of these scenarios. However it is further worth highlighting what we are being alert too. Essentially any behaviours which appear out of place, erratic or dysfunctional to the environmental context we are in should be considered potential threats. It is these behaviours which require us to undertake an immediate assessment, decide on a plan and act this with immediate effect to the best of our capability.

Equally, when observing behaviour it is possible to categorise types of behaviour in respect of this being a relative predictor of violence. Typically, significant and immediate changes in behaviour, especially those involving increases on gross motor activity (large gestures) are strong predictors for potential violent behaviour. These changes in behavioural states are neither precise, nor linear, however the following stage approach can be used to measure the likelihood incidence:

(stage i) Agitation: 'nervous' behavioural patterns, may go un-noticed.

(stage ii) Disruption: noisy or physically obstructive behavioural patterns.

(stage iii) Destructive: physical behaviours involving destruction of property (breaking things).

(stage iv) Dangerous: physical behaviours involving violence against a person.

This four stage approach is not linear in it's progression, an individual may go from agitated to dangerous in seconds, bypassing the other theoretical stages. The use is however in the general application to making that immediate assessment of the environmental and potential threats. If that person appears agitated, they are probably best avoided an so on....

Equally each stage may also be 'supported' by a 'threat of lethal force'. This is however more of a 'cry for help' than a direct literal threat. Take a second and consider how many times you have heard a of a serial killer who directly advertised their intention in this way...not many are there? The point being that the threat is provided to elicit a fear response in the recipient. This is done in an attempt to legitimise, support and reinforce the physical behaviours being performed. However, we will include this as a further predictor of potentially violent behaviour.