Lesley Elliott leaves a legacy of caring

“Lesley Elliott was tenacious, intelligent and wanted to make sure that no mother would go through her experience of losing a daughter to violence,” says Judge Peter Boshier, White Ribbon Patron.

Lesley’s daughter Sophie Elliott was murdered by former boyfriend and university tutor Clayton Weatherston in 2008. Lesley along with other violence prevention advocates created the Sophie Elliott Foundation and developed the Loves Me Not school programme to teach year 12 students about abuse and healthy relationships. The trust was wound up in 2019 with the intellectual property being passed to NZ Police, but not before she was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2015.

“Lesley’s passing leaves a gap in our White Ribbon family. She met countless numbers of our volunteers and inspired many of our Ambassadors, always giving her time freely to help our men understand the complexities of non-physical or psychological violence. In the wider family violence community, she inspired and helped to educate countless young women through the Sophie Elliott Foundation, promoting healthy relationships for young women and ensuring they knew the warning signs of toxic relationships”, says Judge Boshier.

“Even while running her own charity, she was willing to become one of White Ribbon’s first female Ambassadors in 2016. She wanted to make sure a female voice was firmly embedded in our violence prevention work and she wanted to ensure young men were seen as part of the solution, not just the problem.”

Lesley believed that we needed to ensure there was positive peer pressure for young men to behave better, and speaking at a 2016 White Ribbon Ride event in Dunedin she said, ‘It’s for guys to say to their mates, ‘Look, I don’t like the way you’re treating your girlfriend.’

“She believed that many young men didn’t have suitable role models,” says Rob McCann White Ribbon Manager, “and that we needed to do everything we could to promote healthy role models that valued non-violent behaviour.”

“In 2022, many years after Lesley made those comments, our campaign is focusing on encouraging men to flip the script and reject the unhealthy and outdated ideas of what it is to be a man. We’re trying to take back the phrase ‘boys will be boys’, which is a universal excuse for poor behaviour, and promote the range of alternative positive things that boys can be; such as caring, supportive, ethical, respectful, friendly, generous and awesome.

“I know Lesley would want nothing less for the thousands of young women she spoke to, than for them to have partners or boyfriends with those kinds of qualities. As a parent myself, I know we can’t continue to roll the dice and leave it up to others to role model healthy masculinity. We need to start living it, and talking to our young men, so that the awful tragedy that occurred in the Elliott family in 2008 doesn’t happen ever again.

Lesley was a tireless advocate for change and we offer our condolences to her friends and family as they mourn the loss of a great New Zealander, who used her own experience of tragic loss to create an organisation and education programme that helped countless others.





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