Bay of Plenty Police is expanding the successful Loves Me Not programme to reach more young people across the district.
Loves Me Not is a school-wide programme delivered to Year 12 students throughout New Zealand, which aims to encourage and empower young people to reject any forms of abuse in relationships.
Senior Constable Dennis Bidois noticed that many of the most vulnerable victims and prolific offenders of family violence were missing out on the lessons learnt inside the school classroom.
He is now expanding Loves Me Not to alternative education facilities and other community groups, including at Bay Pathways and with local Iwi.
"Many of our most at risk are youth have already left the usual school system before this programme even begins," Senior Constable Bidois said.
"Loves Me Not is a beautiful programme so we are not changing any of the content.
What is important is that as many young people as possible receive this education, regardless of their circumstances."
Senior Constable Bidois hoped to continue to expand the programme in Tauranga to reach more communities, Iwi groups, and eventually a wider age group.
"The Loves Me Not programme has provided one of the most successful inroads that Police have ever had into secondary schools and we know its benefiting young people's future," he said.
"Beyond the positive impact it has on relationships, it has created endless opportunities to gain the trust and confidence of students, staff and whanau."
Developed with the Sophie Elliott Foundation, Loves Me Not encourages students to recognise unhealthy relationships and to take action where necessary, including through the use of effective bystander action and wider community action.
It is delivered through teaching workshops, collaborating with parents and whanau [family], and reviewing the school environments and policies.
"Teaching young people to recognise harmful behaviour, both in their own behaviour and in the behaviour of others, is an absolute priority for Police," Senior Constable Bidois said.
"Having a healthy relationship expands to a healthy life.
With early intervention, we hope young people will learn to recognise happy and healthy relationships that stay that way.
"Too often, people are unaware of the early signs of negative relationships and as time goes by, it becomes more and more difficult to address or remove themselves from the situation."
Relationship abuse is one of New Zealand's biggest social and criminal issues, he said.
"The programme teaches young people to speak up and to get help for themselves and for others."
Further information on participating in the Loves Me Not programme is available through your local Police School Community Officer or online at the NZ Police School Portal.
LOVES ME NOT:
- Across NZ, Loves Me Not has reached more than 10,000 young people this year at 94 schools
- As part of the goal to improve student-led action, many young people who have taken part in Loves Me Not have gone on to actively prevent family harm in their own communities.
- It has resulted in students becoming active ambassadors of White Ribbon and establishing their own community action groups.