Sophie Elliott story changing family violence mindset

A number of anti-domestic violence ambassadors presented their stories to local police and CYFS social workers at a special workshop in Whangarei recently.

Victim and Family Violence Manager for Northland police, Maria Nordstrom said the workshop seeks to develop a better understanding for multiagency frontline specialists about family violence mind-set as it relates to victims and perpetrators in order to improve our service in responding, supporting and preventing family violence harm.

Victim, Leslie Elliott, national police family violence trainer, Jude Simpson, It’s not OK ambassadors, Patumoana Eparaima and Phil Paikea gave powerful speeches around the effects domestic violence has had on them personally.

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Service providers are welcomed onto Whakapara Marae for conference

Leslie Elliott’s daughter Sophie was stabbed more than 200 times by her boyfriend of six months, Clayton Weatherston in 2008 in the family home. Weatherston is currently serving a minimun 18 years term of imprisonment.

“There were many signs in Sophie’s relationship that I did not pick up on including two assaults that were not reported. He was controlling, would put her down, make her feel insecure and she became isolated from her family and friends,” Elliot said.

Leslie has since started the Sophie Elliott Foundation which helps young people recognise the signs of abuse. The programme is offered in schools around the country and highlights that domestic violence can happen in any home, any demographic, at anytime.  It aims to stimulate discussion especially to Year 12 students around how to keep relationships safe.

Leslie is currently developing a programme to help parents recognise the signs in their children and how to support them out of an abusive relationship.

Patumoana Eparaima was a victim of domestic violence growing up as a child and became a perpetrator in later years. He said more needs to be done for offenders to be given the tools to address the offending.

“I grew up an angry, aggressive young man who used my fists and my mouth to keep myself safe and later to maintain control of my partners and children. Basically I ruled with fear without any idea this was not normal.

I believe there are no bad men just bad behaviour and we need to start asking the question what’s behind the behaviour? If we can get in these guys’ minds then we can address the behaviour and sometimes it may just take one person to show empathy to crack that person,” said Eparaima.

Jude Simpson said that since she has began working with the Wellington police-training college her domestic violence course has lifted from a 3-hour course to a 60-hour course.

“My aim is to teach through storytelling, teaching empathy and what it feels like to walk in someone else’s shoes,” Simpson said.

 

 

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