Sophie Elliot foundation

One of the events on here for OUSA’s Women’s Week was an evening of talks about Safe and Unsafe relationships, including speakers from Women’s Refuge and Rape Crisis, as well as women who work in domestic interventions, and Lesley Elliot, mother of Sophie Elliot. Recently Lesley announced the formation of a foundation in Sophie’s name to educate high school girls about abusive relationships.

“We want to be the fence at the top of the cliff rather than the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff,” she told the Otago Daily Times.

Mrs Elliott will be joined as a trustee by three Dunedin-based people and Kristin Dunne-Powell, the former partner of television presenter Tony Veitch, who pleaded guilty to injuring her with reckless disregard for her safety.

I think this is great news; it’s been a while since I was in high school, but I don’t remember being taught much about the relationship side of relationships (as opposed to the sex side of them), and I think it is very important to discuss the variety of ways in which a relationship can be unhealthy, because people often imagine an unsafe relationship as being the stereotypical man-hits-woman type, when really it can be very complex and there are many types of abuse: physical, emotional, sexual, financial.

My only comment would be that I hope something like this exists for high school boys in some form or another, or that there are plans (by someone) to create it. Because of the stereotype of an abusive relationship, there are many things a man can do in a relationship that he may not conceptualize as abuse (such as restricting his partner’s time with her friends, or not letting her be in control of her own money) that may not be healthy, and I think high school boys could benefit from discussion about what is ok and not ok in a relationship, and the many forms abuse can take. Also, educating young men may help them to spot signs of unhealthy relationships amongst friends and talk to them about it (shades of the latest “It’s Still Not Ok” campaign ad where a work colleague/friend confronts the male protagonist about his behaviour towards his son).


  1. Katherine says:

    This is in the news again today as apparently the foundation is launching today (or my news feed is broken). The first thing I thought when I read the recycled quotes (that you also quote above) was “who is going to launch a foundation to teach men not to be violent in relationships?” Unfortunately I can’t find any website for the foundation.

    • steph says:

      Yes, I saw it in the news again today too. And while I obviously think that educating young women is great (because often our conceptualisation of abuse excludes lots of things that are legitimate abuse), I really really really think we have to educate men too. Or we end up in ‘rape prevention tips for women’ territory, where nobody is telling men not to rape (or, in this case, abuse parteners). Education for everyone! It is really important for men to be educated too, because as I said above, often people think abusive relationship=hitting your girlfriend, and don’t realise that other things they do are also intimate partner violence (e.g. restricting friends/cutting your partner off from social circle, or monitoring their spending, or things like that). And both men and women need to know about this stuff so they can recognise it in their own actions/their partner’s actions.

      Also, a small part of me would hope that educating men could also help guys to step in when they see their (male) friends behaving abusively, and say “hey man, what do you think you’re doing? Do you think this is ok?”. But I have fantasies of situations like that, haha.

      I also couldn’t find a website for the foundation; hopefully more info about it will be available soon, because I would be very keen to see how they plan to go about this.

  2. Chris says:

    I’d like to see men step up and support young males, this education needs to be undertaken by men as role models as they ‘walk the walk’. Education and awareness of what a healthy relationship is, is needed on both sides.
    There was about 5 years ago a programme delivered to boys by trained men in schools ‘Nga Tane Toa – Boys for Non Violence’, this was based in the Southland
    area. Sadly it no longer runs.

    • steph says:

      Hi Chris,

      Yes, men do need to benefit from education too, and be able to walk the walk. I wholeheartedly feel that education about healthy (and unhealthy) relationships is something that would be so important not just for young women but for young men too. Everyone should be learning this stuff!

      That program sounds very interesting, I haven’t heard about it before (5 years ago was a bit before my feminist radar was operating, I confess). Just the idea of men in schools talking to boys about violence and non violence makes me a bit choked up, because I would have so much respect those men.