Don’t bully. Love instead. Love for Izzy Dix #OneYearOn

Izzy Dix. RIP

Izzy Dix. RIP

At 9.16am exactly one year ago, I received a phone call.

I was just about to leave the house, but when I heard the ringing I backtracked from the front door and picked it up.

It was my husband.

“Hi, it’s me”, he said.

It only took three words, but I could tell instantly that something was wrong.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”, I said.

“Dad’s just called with some terrible news… It’s Izzy… She’s dead…”

A cold shiver went down my spine and out into every pore of my skin. I gasped loudly with the shock of it all.

“What????!!!!”, I somehow stammered out. “How?”

My mind wandered through a bank of possibilities and fixed itself on ‘car accident’. It must be that. It must be a terrible accident.

“She’s taken her own life”, he said.

“What????!!!!”, I somehow stammered out again. “That’s not possible… How?”

“She hung herself last night with her school tie”.

“Oh my god. Oh my god. That’s just not possible. Oh my god.”

“Gabbi found her”, he continued. “But we don’t know anything more than that”.

“Oh my god. Oh my god.”

We finished the phone call and hung up and I started sobbing uncontrollably.

Izzy and her mum Gabbi were very close family friends of my in-laws. Gabbi went out with my brother-in-law for a while when they were teenagers and when they split up, Gabbi stayed in close contact with my parents-in-law. She was already a single mother when she had Izzy, and my mother-in-law took them both under her wing. They were regular visitors to their home and would both come and stay almost every school holidays. My mother-in-law thought of Izzy like another grandchild.

I first met Gabbi and Izzy shortly after Doug and I met – on one of the first visits I ever made to his parents’ house. They were thinking of moving to Australia and were asking me lots of questions about where I grew up. I bonded with both of them instantly. Izzy was about seven or eight at the time and I could see instantly that she was bright, inquisitive, caring, polite and chatty.

Then they went off to Australia and I heard stories over the next few years about how much they loved it there. But it was very expensive and it was difficult without any family support, so they decided to come home.

By now Izzy was a teenager. We had some lovely conversations whenever we met up. She would always ask lots of questions about my life and she was always smiling and seemed happy in her skin. We’d had two children in the time they were away and they both loved her – especially my son.

Before school broke up last year, my mother-in-law went down to Devon to stay with them for about a month while Gabbi recovered from an operation. We were on our way to Cornwall one weekend and stopped in to see them on the way down. That was the last time we saw Izzy alive.

When my mother-in-law came back home, she mentioned that I should start preparing myself now for when my own daughter hits 14, because life with a teenage girl is certainly a bumpy one. I think that was her way of saying that Izzy was not herself and things were amiss. She mentioned that Izzy was being bullied and had been having a hard time, and that Gabbi had been in touch with the school lots of times to try and sort it out.

But none of us were prepared for what happened only a week or so into the new school year, on the night of Tuesday 17th September 2014.

izzy-smWe’ve done a lot in the time since Izzy’s been gone. Gabbi has been so brave, trying to raise awareness of bullying and cyberbullying as she struggles to deal with her own heartwrenching grief.

She was adamant that we launch a campaign… so we put together a team, and we did. We’ve spoken to media from all around the world – TV, newspapers and radio. We’ve made sure that the poem Izzy wrote about the bullying she was suffering was published in most of the national newspapers and some magazines. We’ve rallied social media during Anti-Bullying Week, Safer Internet Day and Stop Cyberbullying Day. We’ve had celebrity support for our campaign. We’ve attended anti-bullying steering groups. We’ve watched Izzy’s story on ‘Loose Women’. We’ve raised money to build a memorial peace garden in Izzy’s memory. We’ve released balloons. We’ve targeted Ask.fm advertisers. We’ve visited the Houses of Parliament to meet with MPs. We’ve been in talks to develop a factual-based drama based on Izzy’s life. We’ve received letters from the Prime Minister. We’ve sold wristbands. We’ve engaged with bloggers. We’ve floated paper lanterns. We’ve spoken at conferences. And we’ve had a victory on our petition.

Yes, that’s right… we collected 144,851 signatures on the petition we launched to close down a social media site called Ask.fm which has been linked to the deaths of 16 teenagers after they were bullied on there.

We caused so much bad publicity for Ask.fm that the totally unrelated US company, Ask.com, started to receive bad press too by people who were confusing the two companies. So they did something about it – they bought Ask.fm last month. And they are now 100% committed to making it a safer place.

Last week I received a phone call from the US-based CEO of Ask.com, Doug Leeds, because he personally wanted to let us know all the things they are doing to tackle bullying on Ask.fm. Here are just some of the changes they’re making:

  • Investing millions in moderation to deal with bullying behaviour
  • Committing to respond to allegations of bullying within 24 hours
  • Signing a new agreement with the US Attorney General which promises to make the site safer
  • Making controls for users more prominent, so turning off anonymous comments, deleting, reporting and blocking are much easier to do
  • 
Committing to removing users who’ve been subject to three complaints and blocking them from creating new accounts under different names
  • Building internal technology to scan posts which will identify bullying patterns
  • 
Improving ‘support’ sections of the site to educate and be more open with parents and users
  • Recruiting a team of world-renowned child safety experts to sit on a ‘safety advisory board’
  • 
Hiring a ‘Law Enforcement Liaison Officer’ for Europe and the US dedicated to working with the police
  • Working with a suicide prevention organisation to address prevention issues and training staff to provide guidance to resources
  • Promptly deleting the accounts of users who are proved to be under 13 years of age

We couldn’t be more thrilled by this commitment from Doug and his team.

Izzy always said she wanted to change the world, and it looks like we’re finally doing it for her.

So on this sad anniversary of her death, I’m shedding a tear for her while I remember the beautiful girl we all loved dearly and am hoping she’d be proud of all we’ve achieved in her name since she left us. And especially proud of her amazing mum, Gabbi.

Don't bully. Love instead. Love for Izzy Dix.

Don’t bully. Love instead. Love for Izzy Dix.

Don’t bully. Love instead. Love for Izzy Dix #OneYearOn

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27 thoughts on “Don’t bully. Love instead. Love for Izzy Dix #OneYearOn

    • Thanks Sarah. And thanks for your amazing support of our campaign over the last year too. xoxo

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  2. I signed the petition. I’m really glad to hear you are getting results. I have a 4 year old daughter and I fear for her school days/teenage years already. There is nothing worse than bullying, especially when you are so young. And I fear that it is even worse for young people now because of the internet. I dread to think what my school days would’ve been like if someone could intrude into my life once I was at home…to hurt me via a computer or other device would have been horrific.
    We really have to make a stand against this & stop people hiding behind computer screens to bully people.
    Out of something so awful, I hope something positive can emerge.
    xxx

    • Thank you so much for your comment and your support. We’re definitely focusing on the positive. xoxo 🙂

  3. I am crying. This is such a beautiful post Maddie and you have done SO much since the loss of Izzy last year. I will never forget our conversations almost a year ago. Thinking of you, Gabbi and everyone involved in this terrible tragedy. Well done on all you have achieved. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow xx

    • Your reply has just made me cry too. Thanks so much for everything you’ve done in support – not only of the campaign but in supporting me too (especially in my fragile state at last year’s MADs). Can’t wait to catch up tomorrow. xoxo

      • Just popping back to say thank you for linking to PoCoLo gorgeous. Support was what any friend should do 🙂 Lovely to see you again and, like all of these things, I wish I had had more chance to chat xx

  4. Oh Maddie I’m now shedding a little tear myself. It sounds like Ask.com are doing absolutely everything they possibly can to make the site a safer, happier place. You must be thrilled with the outcome, well done.

    Although completely bittersweet, I hope Gabbi is really proud of what you guys have achieved. She sounds like an amazing woman.

    Lots of love xxx

    • Yes, very bittersweet. I wish we hadn’t had to do any of this at all. But at least we’re raising awareness so hopefully parents will be on the look out for any warning signs. Absolutely thrilled with Ask.com’s response. They are on it!

  5. Oh Maddie what a tough day for you and your family. I hope you feel very, very proud of yourself though lady you have done an absolutely amazing job. Thinking of you xxx

    • Yeah, a difficult day. But amazing things are happening (we’ve been contacted by someone who wants to turn Izzy’s poem into a song by a BBC Introducing artist) so she won’t be forgotten. Thanks my lovely. And I’ll make sure all my tears are shed before tomorrow so we can have a lovely day. xoxo

  6. I think what you’ve all achieved is amazing Maddie and I for one am very grateful. As the mother of a 14 year old girl, I cannot imagine the heartache both Izzy and her mum must have been through. Sending love to you all on this sad, sad day and praying that this is just the tip of the iceberg where change is concerned x x

  7. What a tragic story. What an amazing story too – nothing can bring back beautiful Izzie, but incredible things that have been done in her name that will hopefully help other families avoid similar tragedy. Well done #pocolo xx

  8. I’m so sorry for what you and your family and friends have been through Maddie and for the loss of lovely Izzy. It’s such great news about ask.com, it really sounds like they’re going to sort things out.

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  10. What a truly heartbreaking story. One lost young person is one too many. I am in awe of people who can push through such a tragedy to try and make positive change so that others may avoid the same fate.

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  12. What an inspirational post, so touching and moving. It is so tragic that a beautiful and wonderful girl like Izzy has taken her own life. I have a 12 year old daughter who has recently been bullied, it is one of the most traumatic things a child can go through. My daughters school has been very good at supporting her but Izzy’s story is every parents worst nightmare. I’m sure Izzy is watching from above feeling proud of the incredible work which has been achieved so far in this inspiring anti bullying campaign. #dontbullyloveinstead

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