Sunday, 6 November 2011

A loving mother and an example of hate

Disablist language is very much on my mind this morning. Or actually the victims of disablist language.

After Example, a musician with 500,000 followers posted a tweet comparing Frankie Cocozza to a special needs version of a member of One direction or as he called it “Mong” direction, on Twitter a young special needs teacher challenged him and received the predictable savaging from his fans. He is due to appear at a Mencap Benefit soon. So that's ironic.

Why does it keep happening? When did disability become the go to guy for targeted abuse? Why isn’t our legislation drawn to protect disabled people from hate speech in the same way as all targeted groups. It is as an aggravating factor, in crime, which prompts tougher sentences for  burglary or assault for example, but that simply isn’t good enough.

It’s hate speech, a crime in and of itself for others.

Again what woke me up this morning were nightmares about Fiona and Francecca.

After ten years of abuse at the hands of a bullying gang both verbal and physical after ten years of being ignored by support services in place to protect them, after ten years of fighting and trying, she killed her severely learning disabled daughter and herself.

She’d planned it and had for several days driven around until she found the right spot. She had, in her view no other choice. She knew the world at it’s harshest and at it’s most real. No-one cared. No-one would help and she knew it.

In the days before they died the family’s house was once again targeted and patrolled by the thugs. They stood outside and the gang leader who led the others in calling Francecca a retard, shouted “we can do whatever we like and there is nothing you can do about it”.

He was right.

Finding the “perfect place” and with Francecca in the back, Fiona  doused the car in petrol, set it on fire and got in.

She didn’t want her daughter to be afraid so she put Francecca’s pet rabbit on her knee to calm her.

That detail is the one that makes me cry the most. It’s making me cry now, she was being a good mother, she was trying to soothe her petrified child as she killed her. She knew she couldn’t go on and she thought  no-one would care about her daughter afterwards.

The stories about institutionalised abuse of disabled people in residential hospitals, which are now surfacing, bear out her concerns.

It was supposed to be a watershed in the attitudes of service providers, of the police, of communities. It was supposed to be a Stephen Lawrence moment, an opportunity  to take stock and make changes. Yet recently all the officers concerned were exonerated.

We all failed Fiona and Francecca, and David Askew and Gemma Hayter. I fiercely defend them, when I challenge a celebrity because that’s what we are supposed to do. We’re supposed to care about others, otherwise what is the point of any of this?

Fiona and many others like her will continue to see murder/suicide as the only escape they have whilst we turn our heads from the injustice they deal with on a daily basis. When we laugh along or let verbal abuse go- because we don’t want to make a fuss; because it’s not our fight, we fail them.

Meanwhile a musician thinks it’s fine to use people like Francecca as the punchline to his joke.

Well it’s not fine by my standards it’s not at all good enough.

Note- After reading this blog Example got in touch on Twitter, he wrote  read your blog post. Moving stuff. Let me know if you ever need help raising awareness for anything


  1. Thanks for keeping writing, Nicky. You're making a big difference. I am full of admiration.

  2. A beautifully written heart breaking blog. I too lost sleep over the ignorance shown by 'Example' & the number of his followers who found his comment funny & acceptable.

    Attitudes like these are why children like mine feel fear when they leave the safety of their homes to go to school, work etc.

    Keep doing what you do as it makes a difference one person at a time.

  3. Oh thank you both so much for your lovely comments. All love nik xx

  4. Brilliant piece, I am tired of facing abuse every time we have the audacity to go out with our daughter I grow tired of it all I have tried angry tried explaining ,my nightmare is all of the above and more thank you for putting into words I have never been good at that , in Tears now

  5. Thank you Deb. I know your frustration and i'm sending all my love. Nik xx

  6. totally agree. Me, I was determined that winterbourne was going to be a "stephen lawrence" moment - and it may well be, but now the dust is settling, I can see little change happening yet. Many of the people who shouted at the time have said their piece and moved on to other pet projects. Suppose this is mine . . . So disillusioned currently. Status quo will continue unless the fight carries on in more high profile ways. Getting radical now. Thinking action. Thinking, just thinking . . .

  7. What I don’t get is why he hasn’t PROPERLY apologised. He is an intelligent man, he has a loyal following of at least half a million willing to applaud his every word. If he could let that tiny little voice inside him that is actually quietly feeling guilty speak up it would change everything.
    We all make mistakes when we are tired, or ill informed, or influenced by a mob prejudice. But we all have the ability to learn from our mistakes and admit we were wrong. And a good apology can be even better than not making the mistake in the first place because it demonstrates to others (potentially 500,000 others) that it is cool to have a change of mind and admit it. This idea that you have to take a position and stick to it in order to be respected is the problem.

    I've spent a lot of time around people with Aspergers: yes, while they are often the victims of bullying it is remarkable to witness what relentless bullying they are capable of themselves. I suspect it is a combination of the unwillingness to accept they might be wrong, underdeveloped empathy (which can be learned) and the desire to turn the attention of "the mob" away from them.

    I was a pretty plain kid in school. I wore hand me down clothes, I was not good at sport and was in no way "cool" - so I had to develop my personality and use my brains to be funny in order to be accepted and included.
    I'm ashamed to say it but when the bullies were bored and looking for a target to assert their authority I learned how to stay out of their sights- leaving someone else to be attacked.
    I suspect that Ricky was the same. -and now that he is rich enough to have a personal trainer and a chef, designer clothes and a shelf full of awards, he is still afraid that if he doesn't run with the mob they will turn on him.

    It's not an excuse, just an explanation. A little empathy for Ricky if you like. I hope he can learn some too.


  8. Did you mean to post you Ricky response here? Maybe on the Twinterview page. Best Nik

  9. Keep up the excellent work, Nicky...we'll do our part here in Canada, too. Cheers.

  10. Bravo Nicky. I can't believe the crap you get for writing honest but heart-breaking truths. I think someone wrote a while ago to say that you don't represent her. Well, you're doing a pretty good job of representing me and for that I thank you. I hate this idea that parents of disabled children and young people should be the meek, silent and grateful recipients of society's charity and never raise our voices. Thanks for shouting X

  11. I was a common user or the words 'retard', 'spaz' and other of the same sort but then I read your article:

    I just wanted to say thank you for opening my eyes to the hurtful truth and knock on effects of what I'd previously been saying; from this point on I will make a serious effort to think about what I'm saying before I say it. I wish you all the best in your career and hope others will find what you've written as eye-opening as I have.

  12. GirlWithTheCan thank you lovely.xx

    Ruby's Mum Thank you so much for your kind comments. Beautifully put. Nik xx

    Natalya Gray I am so touched by your comment and so pleased that my piece affected you. Thank you so much lovely. Nik xx