Pupils learn from Sophie's brutal death

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EDUCATION: Lesley Elliott and Bill O'Brien travel the country raising awareness of domestic violence. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

By ALECIA ROUSSEAU

Sophie Elliott's brutal death has left a legacy for other young teens - be aware of the dangers of unhealthy relationships.

The 22-year-old university student was stabbed to death in 2008 by her ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston.

Her mother Lesley has campaigned tirelessly since, in an attempt to raise awareness of the danger signs of abusive relationships.

She established the Sophie Elliott Foundation which has developed the programme, Loves-Me-Not.

Last week this seminar was delivered to students at Awatapu College who were the first group in Palmerston North to experience the one-day workshop.

The course, which includes interactive videos, group discussions and exercises, is facilitated by the New Zealand Police.

At its opening, Manawatu Area Commander Inspector Sarah Stewart said she commended Awatapu College and the community for taking a proactive approach in educating young people.

"I believe this programme will have a significant impact on the future safety of our students and our community."

The programme also includes some stark statistics, including the fact that 50 per cent of murders in New Zealand relate to family violence.

Awatapu College principal Gary Yeatman said he was grateful to the community and police for their assistance in addressing family harm.

"It's important that we as schools be proactive in our approach to increasing education around these issues to help keep our young people safe."

He said the students involved in the programme had provided positive feedback, with many stating they had learnt how to recognise the signs of abuse.

EARLY SIGNS

Early signs of abuse in relationships:

�Partner tells you who you can see, what clothes to wear, how to have your hair or make-up.

�Wants to know where you're going, who you're with, when you will be home.

�Displays stalking behaviour and accuses you of being unfaithful and flirtatious.

�Threatens to abuse you, your family, friends or pets.

�Nasty behaviour towards pets is a frequent early warning sign.

�Threatens to commit suicide.

�Displays changeable/volatile behaviour.

�Is coercive, pressuring you to do things you don't want to.

�Physically abuses you by hitting, punching, choking or pushing.

�Communication is haphazard and unreliable.

Source: Sophie Elliott Foundation

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