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