Advice on safe relationships

Attending the Loves-Me-Not workshops at Waitaki Girls’ High School this week are (from left)...
Attending the Loves-Me-Not workshops at Waitaki Girls’ High School this week are (from left) Oamaru police school community officer Constable Jay Morriss, year 12 pupils Lucy Strang, Hazel Turner, Phoebe Farmer, all 16, programme supporter Waitaki Girls’ High School guidance counsellor Jenny Corlet and Sergeant Blair Wilkinson. PHOTOS: JULES CHIN
The need to prevent domestic abuse and foster healthy relationships is still strong in New Zealand. To help promote abuse prevention, police are still maintaining workshops launched by Lesley Elliott in memory of her daughter who was murdered after a relationship went horribly wrong.

Oamaru police Senior Sergeant Jason McCoy, Sergeant Blair Wilkinson and school community officer Constable Jay Morriss were at Waitaki Girls’ High School on Monday implementing the Loves-Me-Not year 12 school programme across three classrooms for a one-day intensive workshop.

It has been 11 years since the Love-Me-Not workshops were piloted in Oamaru at Waitaki Girls’, but the educational programme around domestic abuse prevention and fostering healthy relationships is still going strong.

The school, as well as others in the district, has maintained the school workshops every year since they began.

Sophie Elliott.
Sophie Elliott.
In 2008, Dunedin woman Lesley Elliott’s daughter, Sophie, 22, was stabbed to death by her former boyfriend at her family home in Ravensbourne.

In 2011, Mrs Elliott launched the book Sophie’s Legacy — A mother’s story of her family’s loss and their quest for change to present her side of the story while warning young women of the dangers of domestic violence.

A foundation was formed in honour of Sophie.

The foundation’s programme aims to equip young people with the skills to identify early warning signs so they can avoid becoming involved in abusive relationships.

In 2013, the foundation partnered with the New Zealand Police and Ministry of Social Development to develop a one-day workshop for year 12 pupils named Loves-Me-Not, to educate pupils on healthy relationships and prevent abusive relationships.

Mrs Elliott closed the foundation in 2019, stating that Parkinson’s disease prevented her from continuing to run it.

Since 2021, the police have continued to run the Loves-Me-Not workshop in high schools.

Const Morriss praised the courage of Mrs Elliott, who died in November 2022, and the programme.

"It’s amazing that out of everything that happened, she found the strength to create something that we can all benefit from," he said.

"The programme offers pupils a chance to really consider what they hold close as healthy attributes in a relationship and in turn it helps them to maintain healthy relationships throughout their lives," he said.

He said the programme looked to establish the healthy ideals in partner and romantic relationships and to look out for "red flags" and how to develop healthy boundaries.

"We look into relationship details and into the Sophie Elliott case.

"We look at how things can go wrong if we don’t have clear and positive ideals.

"We look at where pupils can go and who they can turn to, if they recognise things are going on that aren’t healthy; knowing what the signs are, not just for ourselves but also for others."

Const Morriss said exploring what healthy boundaries were could sometimes be a "difficult conversation" but he hoped that the conversations would continue after the workshops.

"I would have loved to have had this course at school. If we don’t talk about these things, we make it up as we go along, " Const Morriss said.

"Learning, if it’s not from a healthy source for pupils, can come from unhealthy sources like pornography and online.

"Parents will hopefully use this programme to talk about it at home."

Const Morriss said the workshops carried pertinent messages, especially leading up to the school ball season.

The programme recently ran at East Otago High School and Waitaki Boys’ High School on Tuesday this week, and will run at St Kevin’s College early next month.

"We do it the same time as the formals.

"We appreciate the support that the high schools place on it and the merit that they put in it," Const Morriss said.