Kelly Makiha is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Empowering young people (+video)

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Hundreds of Rotorua high school students will this year take part in a programme that aims to better educate teenagers about abusive relationships and sexual violence.

The Loves Me Not programme is being taught at Rotorua Lakes High School, Rotorua Girls' High School, Reporoa College and Western Heights High School.

The one-day programme is taught to Year 12 students by three trained facilitators including a police officer, a teacher and a non-government organisation representative.

Constable Viv Sutton, who looks after the programme for Rotorua police, said thanks to funds raised by Zonta, every student taking part would get to take home a paperback book which outlined the key messages.

Mrs Sutton said the programme made students aware of the warning signs of an abusive relationship and gave them strategies to make changes.

She said there might be things in their relationships that in the beginning they thought were endearing, sweet, loving and considerate, such as if their partner waited for them outside school or work each day.

"But it might actually be stalking-type behaviour and displaying control and it could start to paint a picture."

She said part of the course was about educating students around the issue of consent because police dealt with complaints that centred around situations which were effectively rape, but there could be grey areas as to whether consent had been given.

Rotorua police area commander Inspector Bruce Horne said he was keen to grow the programme.

"It is a very important programme particularly in respect of trying to break the cycle of violence because one of the challenges is children who grow up in that environment; it is the normal for them.

"Programmes like Loves Me Not helps them make sense of their experiences and, most importantly, helps them understand what a healthy relationship looks like and what they should be aspiring to."

Rotorua Girls' High School principal Ally Gibbons said her students first took part in the programme in 2014 and found it beneficial.

"We want to teach girls what's okay in a relationship and how to identify warning signs of an unhealthy relationship - little things like a partner wanting to know where you are, what you're doing and who you're with all the time.

"The more information they have around them the more empowered our young women are to make really good decisions."

Rotorua Girls' High School's programme will be held next month.

Loves Me Not was developed in conjunction with the Sophie Elliott Foundation.

What students learn:

* Explore qualities of good relationships

* Recognise early signs of relationship abuse

* Understand sexual consent, what it means, and why they need it

* Apply critical thinking about who is advantaged by societal myths, and how these myths may perpetuate abuse

* Explore if, when and how to be an active bystander

* Be encouraged to "take action for change" for themselves, their friends and family, and the wider community.

Where to get help:

- Waiariki Women's Refuge, (07) 349 0852
- Family Focus Rotorua, (07) 346 2096
- It's Not OK helpline, 0800 456 450
- Shine, national helpline, 0508 744 633
- If it is an emergency, call 111

Special court sees spectrum of cases

When police attend a family violence incident in Auckland and there is enough evidence to charge an abuser, they end up in the Auckland Family Violence Court.

Set up to offer a specialised approach to the exploding numbers on charges arising from family violence, the court has a focus on providing rehabilitation for offenders.

For anyone who thinks family violence only happens in certain parts of the community, this court is the place where they're proven wrong.

The people waiting for their case to be called were as diverse as our community outside the walls of the court. And they weren't only men.

The first defendant to plead guilty was a mother of three. She admitted charges of assault with a weapon and possessing an offensive weapon, "namely scissors".

The victim was the father of her children, from whom she was separated. "It's a snapping situation, if you know what I mean," her lawyer told Judge Ema Aitken.

Then, a lanky Chinese man who had been under pressure to pay the staff at his plastering business and had finally recovered money from a debtor. But his wife had other plans for the cash. He assaulted her. He had no previous convictions but, due to the seriousness of the assault, a discharge without conviction was not an option.

A well-dressed man in his 40s, an engineer for a pharmaceutical company, was charged with dealing his teenage daughter a backhand slap while they were travelling in a car, during a blazing row.

For the police, courts and help agencies, it's just another day on the front line.

- NZ Herald

- Rotorua Daily Post

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