Scheme helps cut sexual violence

By Zaryd Wilson

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STAY HEALTHY: High School girls Mika Gordon and Mandy Miller - with Constable Paul Miller - are among Whanganui students to take part in the Loves-Me-Not programme.PHOTO/ STUART MUNRO
STAY HEALTHY: High School girls Mika Gordon and Mandy Miller - with Constable Paul Miller - are among Whanganui students to take part in the Loves-Me-Not programme.PHOTO/ STUART MUNRO

Teaching students the signs of a healthy relationship is vital in reducing cases of sexual violence, says an educator involved in the facilitation of the Loves-Me-Not programme.

Aimed at year 12 students, the day-long programme is run by a teacher, a police officer and a representative of a family violence prevention organisation.

Wanganui Collegiate has just signed up to offer the programme to its students in August, the third Whanganui school to do so.

The programme, set up by the Sophie Elliot Foundation and managed by police, teaches teenagers about what makes a healthy relationship in order to help them identify signs of one which is abusive or controlling.

"What we do know is that there is a vacuum of knowledge, and they are going to get their knowledge from somewhere," said educator Toni Wallace of Whanganui Safe and Free, one of several non-government organisations that helps facilitate the programme.

"We are there because we have the community knowledge and the knowledge of our sector.

"We know there are young people who don't have those good role models. We have a high domestic violence rate in this country.

"When it comes to statistics for sexual violence, 30 per cent of people under 16 have had some kind of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards them."

She said people in healthy relationships were encouraging, trusting and fun to be around.

"A big part of the programme is helping them recognise what is okay and what is not okay - we concentrate on the healthy stuff."

On the other hand, making excuses, insults, name-calling and shaming were some of the warning signs.

"Underpinning all violence is an attitude," Mrs Wallace said.

Students who had taken part in the programme seemed to have taken on the messages.

"It's great that we are giving them this information."

Mrs Wallace said Whanganui Safe and Free - whose participation in the scheme has been funded by Specsavers Whanganui - was also promoting a programme aimed at adults about how people should intervene if they witnessed such behaviour.

Information can be found at whoareyou.co.nz

Meanwhile, the Loves-Me-Not book offered to students as part of the programme is also available at Whanganui libraries.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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