independent

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Mother's ongoing campaign against cyber bullying

Jackie Fox, who recently moved to Courtown, lost her 18-year-old daughter to suicide

Jackie Fox with her late daughter Nicole ‘Coco’
Jackie Fox with her late daughter Nicole ‘Coco’

Cathy Lee

Mother-of-two Jackie Fox, whose beloved daughter Nicole Fox Fenlon (21) died by suicide in January 2018, is encouraging the community of Wexford to get behind her as she continues her ongoing campaign to bring forth new legislation aimed at tackling the devastating affects of online bullying.

Jackie Fox, who is originally from Clondalkin and has just recently moved to Courtown, wants to bring 'Coco's Law' into law in honour of her daughter. She feels that although the change of legislation won't bring her daughter back to her, it will help other families and make bullies accountable for their actions.

As a teenager, Nicole suffered mental and physical abuse from other young people, and this led to further online harassment over time.

She began to self harm and her family noticed a lot of change in her outlook as the suffering continued.

At the age of 18, she took an overdose and was referred to CAMHS for intervention.

Throughout this time, the bullying continued and Jackie said that Nicole cried every night going to bed.

'Nicole was an ordinary child. She had lots of friends, she was bubbly and cheeky but could be quiet as well. She was fun-loving, but as she got older and these things started to happen, she went from the bubbly little girl to someone who was self-harming really quickly.

'When she took the overdose in 2015, we were in hospital for four nights. She was distraught and crying, but when we went to CAMHS we found they did not take it as seriously as maybe they should have'.

Jackie described the devastation that her family suffered after Nicole took her own life in January, as all of their lives changed utterly.

She said that she had to put her time and energy into something to keep going, and she described being shocked when gardaí told her that online bullies who tormented her daughter would not be punished.

It was in the months that followed that Jackie decided that she wanted legislative change, and she has appeared on television and also taken part in marches, rallies and spoke in public and private to policy makers in her efforts to spark change.

'Nicole died on January 20, and when the guards came back and said it wasn't a criminal offence to bully someone, it sent me into a different mode. I knew then it was up to me to find something to do about it.

'At the start, nobody was listening but over time I began meeting TDs, we organised a march through Dublin and a protest outside the Dáil.'

It was May 2018 when Jackie stood before government representatives and told her story, and just a year later it was agreed that phone companies would provide leaflets about online harassment in an attempt to educate young people and parents.

She said that being on this journey has really opened her eyes to those experiencing bullying and mental health difficulties.

'Before Nicole died, I had never taken as much notice of it in terms of child and adult mental health services but now I've met so many parents in the same situation.

'I have a Facebook page set up for the campaign, and I get a lot of texts from people telling me their own stories. Bullying and mental health is such a big thing'.

This year, the government agreed to draft legislation to introduce new offences including online harassment, taking and distributing of intimate images without consent, stalking and particularly 'revenge pornography'.

The Labour Party is tabling amendments to the bill to ensure it is named Coco's Law, in honour of Nicole's nickname and Jackie said that party Brendan Howlin TD has been a great support to her, as have other TDs including James Browne in terms of keeping her up to date on how the Bill is progressing.

'The change of legislation is a cold comfort, it will be bitter sweet as it's not going to bring Nicole back.

'But this is for people everywhere, from young people to those in the work place who experience bullying'.

Jackie said that although Christmas is a hard time for the family, Nicole and her siblings always enjoyed their holidays in Wexford and they look forward to starting a new chapter here.

She is currently finishing up training with HUGG, the peer support service for those bereaved by suicide, and once she is ready to she hopes to set up a HUGG group in Gorey.

To find out more about the campaign, search 'MakeCocosLawHappen' on Facebook.

Wexford People

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