We would all do anything for our kids. We give up our time, our money, our own ambitions, even the food off our plates, all for our children. As they grow and become less dependent upon us, we find that we have to give up slightly less, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t still need the most important thing of all: our love.
Rona and David had given up much for their children over the years. Now, as their youngest daughter entered high school, they found they could sort of pull back a bit and let her slide into her own adult identity. They had no idea that it was then their daughter would need them the most…
Growing up Scottish
Rona, her husband, David, their older two boys, David and Christopher, lived in Lenzie, Scotland. Rona was a civil servant who worked with the Health and Safety Executive in Glasgow. In September of 1985, Rona and David were blessed with one more child, their only daughter, Nicola Ann.
It was a weekend and Rona had woken up earlier than usual. She’d gone downstairs to make some coffee for herself and waited for Nicola, her teenage daughter, to get out of bed. By late afternoon. Nicola still hadn’t emerged, so her mother went to see what was wrong, it was a moment she’d never forget…
Growing Up Scottish
As a child, Nicola was a bright, friendly child who had a flair for the unusual and a penchant for being more than a little individualistic. She had attended the local state schools Millersneuk Primary and Lenzie Academy. It was when she began attending Lenzie Academy though, that things began to take a turn for the worse.
Perhaps it was because of her individualism, or perhaps it was her taste in not only Goth music, but also her Goth-inspired fashion sense, but Nicola’s fellow high school students didn’t seem to like her very much. She was bullied constantly at school, and it was a burden which she bore in silence for a very long time…
Rona knocked and knocked but got no response. Worried that something must have happened, she forced herself into Nicola Ann’s room. Sadly, she had come far too late. Nicola had taken 40 of her mother’s Coproxamol painkillers before going to bed the night before. She was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived.
Three Years of Suffering
15-year-old Nicola Ann Raphael had committed suicide by overdose because she could take it no longer. Though her parents didn’t know it at the time, the reason for Nicola’s suicide was chiefly due to the bullying behavior of her classless classmates. They would soon learn not only that, but also that there were people who could have helped ease the verbal abuse against their daughter and did nothing…
Nicola’s suicide had shocked the nation but what was even more shocking about her death was that the teachers in her school knew about her classmates’ bullying and did nothing to stop it. It wasn’t just verbal abuse either as it turned out, but physical as well. Nicola lived under the threat of physical violence simply because she liked a certain style that was considered outside the norm.
All too Well
Nicola’s older brother Christopher, who had his own experiences of being bullied at the same school, was hit particularly hard by the event. Though, the entire Raphael family would be reeling from the loss for some time. A year after her death, events would occur that would find Rona Raphael doing everything in her power to make sure such a thing didn’t happen to another family…
The wave of media coverage that followed Nicola’s untimely death and the reasons behind it, would prove to be one of the first examples of bullying by way of texting or mobile phones. It was the proof that her parents and police found on these devices that would eventually lead them to learn what had ultimately caused Nicola’s death in the first place.
Not the End
As if they hadn’t already done enough when she was alive, Nicola’s bullies apparently continued after her suicide. They would strike at her memory by defacing her grave and vandalizing it a year after her death. Though police weren’t sure it was the same students, the message was still clear: some people were upset that Nicola’s suicide was attributed to bullying…
Save Our Kids
Rona wanted to do more than just speak out against bullying. She wanted to appeal to the Scottish courts for help in dealing with it. She and those like her began a campaign of anti-bullying that enabled many who had suffered similar indignities to speak to kindred spirits online.
Lyndsay McIntosh, a speaker of the Scottish Parliament, spoke out about the case publicly. “We should think about 16-year-old Nicola Raphael or 12-year-old Emma, who attended Broughton High School, both of whom committed suicide as a result of being bullied at school. I can think of nothing more crucial to the quality of life of our youngsters than that.” And one more famous fan of Nicola came forward to speak with her mother after as well…
Nicola had been set to attend a Marilyn Manson concert a few weeks after she had committed suicide. Manson, who is an alternative icon, was one of her favorite artists. When the singer heard what had happened, he dedicated his song “The Fight Song” to Nicola Raphael and even met her mother after the concert.
Met Her Mother
“He was very caring and considerate,” explained Rona Raphael. “I was so touched that this megastar took time out to meet me. Despite all the controversy about him and his shows, he just seemed like a normal man to me…” Those may sound like semi-innocuous words, but in the context of the event, they are particularly poignant. Of course, there are two sides to the story as well…
Featured on TV
In June 2003, Nicola Raphael’s story was featured on Tonight: GIRLS AFRAID “A report on the dramatic increase in bullying by girls. ” The program saw both bullies and their victims being interviewed and included an interview with Rona Raphael as well. It was designed to show two sides of the story.
Two Sides of the Story
As expected, Rona Raphael took a hard stand on this particular set-up. She talked about what Nicola had gone through and said that bullies would ever comprehend the possible consequences of their actions. She added that there was no possible justification for what they had done. Hard as it is to believe, there were some positives that came out of Nicola’s death…
Nicola was an organ donor and after her death, many of her organs were sent to folks who were in desperate need of them. Her heart was frozen and used to save the life of a toddler. A few years after her death, a BBC TV documentary on organ donation entitled Life on the List saw the Raphael’s meeting one of the recipients, a young boy named Jack.
The Scottish parliament and in particular Brian Fitzpatrick took an interest in the case as well. They joined Rona and the other concerned parents in calling for reviews of anti-bullying policies at schools like Nicola’s. Lenzie Academy has since revisited all of their policies in this regard and have managed to bring down bullying as a whole…
As tragic as Nicola’s suicide was, much good has been done in the aftermath. New websites have been created and new resources have been released for teens like Nicola Raphael, who normally suffer in silence. These children no longer need to be afraid of telling adults what is happening to them.
There are important lessons to be learned from all of this. Those of you out there who are afraid of speaking out against bullies, or telling your parents or teachers about verbal or physical abuse you’re suffering, take heart and learn from Nicola’s mistakes. You’re entitled to respect and you deserve the chance to be happy, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.