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Supporting the cause . . . At a special assembly at Waitaki Girls' High School on Tuesday are (from left) Constable Jay Morriss, Lesley Elliott, Kira Mortimer, Kaylah Rawson, Molly Hurst, Jayde McNamara, Briar Forbes, Rebecca McNeill, Sian Stephens and Sergeant Tony Woodbridge. PHOTO: EMILY MENKES

Waitaki Girls’ High School has been presented with the first “Loves Me Not” certificate from the Sophie Elliott Foundation.

At a special assembly on Tuesday, foundation chairwoman Lesley Elliott awarded the school a certificate for its commitment to “Loves Me Not” workshops over the past five years.

Waitaki Girls’ was one of the eight trial schools for the day-long workshop, which encourages pupils to explore healthy relationships and discuss issues of abuse and consent.

Lesley Elliott, whose daughter Sophie was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2008, cried as she addressed the school.

She recounted her time with Sophie and how she became an advocate after Sophie’s death.

“I made up my mind that I wanted to show all girls what an abusive relationship looked like.”

Ms Elliott thanked the school and community for their commitment to the workshops.

“It makes such a difference when your teachers are behind us. It’s all thanks to them.

“We are teaching the values of trust, respect, tolerance and informed choices. The programme helps give them these tools.”

Ms Elliott launched the Sophie Elliott Foundation in 2010 to help reduce rates of domestic violence.

In 2013, the foundation partnered with the police to develop “Loves Me Not”, which is available for year 12 pupils across the country.

Foundation manager Bill O’Brien said the workshops took place at more than 100 schools last year.

Waitaki Girls’ head boarder Sian Stephens, who completed the workshop last year, was presented with an award for her written reflection of the programme.

“It was very beneficial to learn,” Sian said.

“I think every girl of any age should learn about this. They need this education.”

Sergeant Tony Woodbridge, of the Oamaru police, praised Ms Elliott and her programme.

“Lesley is amazing. This interactive programme is a huge achievement – she’s made some good out of a real tragedy.

“We’ve made ‘Be safe, feel safe’ part of our police strategy. If a relationship doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.”

Sgt Woodbridge supported providing education to young girls in New Zealand about healthy relationships and how to spot abusive ones.

“I actually wish these workshops had been around earlier – we could all stand to learn a thing or two from this.”