Anti-violence message delivered

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South Canterbury schools are embracing the ‘‘Loves Me Not’’ programme, with the aim of lowering the level of domestic violence through education.
Lesley Elliott, alongside her manager, Bill O’Brien, launched the programme following the death of her daughter, Sophie, who was murdered by ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston in 2008.
Mrs Elliott and Mr O’Brien spoke at last week’s South Canterbury Provincial Rural Women New Zealand Fairlie seminar, an event which attracted a crowd of 120 people, of all ages.
The pair featured the work of Loves Me Not, which is delivered to year 12 pupils by three facilitators — a teacher, police officer and nongovernmental organisation representative.
‘‘We’re delighted that the programme’s been picked up by so many schools,’’ Mrs Elliott said.
‘‘I think it’s well worthwhile — I’m a bit biased, but it is.’’
For Mrs Elliott, some of the danger signs — both physical and verbal — were always apparent during Sophie and Weatherston’s tumultuous relationship.
‘‘He was abusing me as well — taking things for granted,’’ Mrs Elliott said.
Sophie had just completed an honours degree and was preparing to embark on her career. She was upstairs in her room, packing, when Weatherston appeared at the family home. He told Mrs Elliott he had something to give Sophie. Just moments later, Sophie was dead. He had stabbed her more than 200 times.
‘‘I see now he was a classic abuser, that was for sure,’’ Mrs Elliott said, looking back over the relationship.
Her comment relates to the control Weatherston had over Sophie, the way he spoke to her and the way he gripped her tight in photographs instead of affectionately holding her.
‘‘[Weatherston was] name-calling, shouting at her — it started right at the beginning,’’ Mrs Elliott said, of the way he treated Sophie.
‘‘It was classic stuff.’’
Although Mrs Elliott’s story was painful, it was one she had endured time and time again for the sake of teens and young adults, who she wanted to educate about ‘safe relationships’.
She initially approached four girls’ schools in Dunedin.
‘‘Three of those schools couldn’t get me there fast enough’’
Now, more than 300 presentations later, the Loves Me Not programme is offered at more than 80 co-ed and single-sex schools throughout the country.