I am proud to lead the Sophie Elliott Foundation. There are some wonderful people around me who are dedicated to the cause of raising awareness to the signs of domestic violence. I gain great satisfaction at how the Foundation has grown, but it brings me no joy that the loss of Sophie at the hands of an ex-boyfriend had to be the catalyst for the Foundation’s existence.
When I realised Sophie had been in a ‘typical’ abusive relationship I determined to do all I could to enable others to see the signs Sophie and I missed. I rationalised that if an intelligent young woman like Sophie couldn’t recognise the signs of abuse then neither will countless other women, their families or friends.
I have no doubt whatsoever that had Sophie been given healthy relationship education in her last years of school she would have recognised things were not right and dealt with the situation differently.
The legacy to my beloved daughter is to see that other families don’t have to go through what my family and I endured. I am not a counsellor and I am not an expert. I am simply a mum and neonatal nurse. I am also a woman on a mission to see that no other women lose their lives through ignorance.
I have developed knowledge of abuse that can back up my beliefs. I will not rest until a suitable programme is in schools nationwide. Sophie would want me to do this.
Marketing: PR and Communications
Kristin is deputy chair of the Foundation and has played an active role as a trustee since its inception. Having had firsthand experience of an abusive relationship Kristin has developed an affinity for other women who are living in, or have survived, similar experiences.
Lesley and Kristin met through their highly publicised cases and together shared their private stories. They realised there was a gap in the area of domestic violence prevention and, with a drive to see change begin, co-founded the Sophie Elliott Foundation.
Kristin is a marketing and communications professional with her own marketing company – GRO Ltd. Part of Kristin’s work involves the marketing and communication requirements of the Foundation and she does this charitably. Kristin is also a board member of Rape Prevention Education.
Loves-Me-Not Programme: Development and Implementation
Bill seems ideally placed to make a significant contribution to the Sophie Elliott Foundation. During a 35-year career with the New Zealand Police he formed a deep affinity towards victims of crime. He was closely involved with the setting up of Victim Support groups at a national and local level. He was also instrumental in having the police education programme Keeping Ourselves Safe accepted into schools. Bill brings strengths in these areas to help the Sophie Elliott Foundation achieve its aims.
Following his police career Bill took up writing as a hobby and among his best works is his book on the Aramoana tragedy that subsequently became the basis for the film Out of the Blue. He has also been a finalist in the New Zealand Post book awards and was writer in residence at the University of Otago College of Education. Bill’s work on, Sophie’s Legacy, co-authored with Lesley Elliott, led him to become involved in the Foundation. Bill also co-authored with Lesley Elliott, Loves-Me-Not: An essential guide for keeping relationships safe.
His role is primarily to manage the development and implementation of the Loves-Me-Not educational programme for senior secondary school students. Bill also acts as a voluntary manager for Lesley, enabling her to travel the country delivering her presentation Sophie’s Story – What WE Missed.
Facilitator / Social Media
After living through an abusive relationship and experiencing the painstaking planning it takes to break free, coupled with the battle that ensues afterward, the Sophie Elliot Foundation and the Loves Me Not programme is a cause close to Karlene’s heart. She firmly believes that had she been educated on the material the LMN programme delivers; the ‘red flags’ of abuse and the various forms of power and control, she would have made very different decisions.
“I’m determined to put these lessons learned the hard way to good use. If I can be part of a team that spares just one person from an abusive relationship, I’ve done my job. I’m absolutely convinced that education is the key to prevention.”
As an ex-teacher, she believes she is right where she’s meant to be; making a difference using education as the prevention. “There’s something to be said for leaving a Loves Me Not facilitation day knowing that you’ve empowered students with not only knowledge but also a sense of self-worth and have potentially altered the course of someone’s life for the better”.
“As adolescents, we’re taught about sex ed. Now here’s the programme teaching ‘the gritty stuff’; how to spot the red flags of abuse and how to navigate and negotiate an adult relationship based on equality and respect. Love can not grow from anything less. I want healthy, loving and respectful relationships for our young people.”
As well as facilitating the programme, Karlene tends to fundraising matters and social media for the Sophie Elliot Foundation.
Now a business woman, Joy was formerly a primary school principal. She brings to the Sophie Elliott Foundation a blend of educational experience, management and business acumen. Joy’s portfolio is the management and forward planning of the Foundation’s finances.
Information Technology and Social Media
Cheryl and Lesley joined forces spurred on by the deaths of their beautiful daughters Sophie Elliott and Alexsis Tóvizi, who both lost their lives at the hands of ex-partners. Cheryl shares Lesley’s passion for reducing harm and eliminating the deaths of young people due to partner violence. She has been a strong advocate speaking at a number of engagements in Christchurch, where she is based, along with creating awareness of the many issues associated with partner violence and their impacts on families nationally.
Cheryl has responsibility for the IT and Social Media portfolio for the Sophie Elliott Foundation. Cheryl utilises her wealth of IT knowledge and experience gained over many years working in a variety of local and international organisations, along with the not-for-profit sector.
The foundation’s website provides a wealth of information to help those that struggle with unhealthy relationships to identify the situation they are in and find the strength to get the support they need.
Through our Facebook Page, website and the many presentations given by Lesley Elliott, Bill O’Brien and the team we aim to create greater awareness of the positive steps which can be taken to reduce partner violence in our community and keep our loved ones safe.