Teens learn dating tools to prevent domestic-violence

By Talisa Kupenga

Police continue to work with Year 12 students throughout the country to shift attitudes towards relationship violence. They hope the Loves Me Not initiative will equip young adults with essential lifeskills, following the death of a 22-year old Papakura woman who was fatally shot in what Police believe to be a domestic-related incident last week. 

Auckland's James Cook High School students are learning what is acceptable as a partner when it comes to intimate relationships.

Sixteen-year-old Justace Pene says, "It's teaching us a lot to do with relationships because this is the stage when a lot of us start experiencing relationships."

Fifteen-year-old Jaydon Thomas-Puma agrees.

"Some of us don't really know that much about relationships so it's good they're coming up and teaching us all about it so we aren't left in the dark."

The programme is run through the Sophie Elliott Foundation. It says youth dating relationships have a higher level of emotional and physical violence than any other age group. With 15 to 24-year-olds being most at risk of physical, psychological and sexual victimisation.

Counties Manukau Sergeant Neil Tapley says it’s about prevention.

"Sophie Elliott and Chozyn Koroheke were so young so by targeting Year 12s we're getting in there early trying to stop that."

Constable Laiha Holliday says awareness is key.

"The students made comment that they didn't realise abuse came in different forms which is what Loves me not is all about, teaching the young people to identify what abuse is and what to do about it.

If one person speaks up about abuse against someone else then I think we're on to a good thing."

Students say social media and peer pressure can play a big part in youth relationship expectations.

Pene says, "It makes teenagers want to be something that they're not."

Riley  Morecraft-Upoko encourages others to do what’s right for themselves.

"Just don't put too much pressure on yourself. If someone is pressuring you into doing something you don't want to do then just tell them laters."

Students here want to be the change they want to see when it comes to healthy relationships in their community.