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Tuesday 25 July 2017

'It tore her down' - teen took her own life after enduring vicious bullies' online torture

Leanne Wolfe’s parents Collette and Anthony (Inset: The cover of one of Leanne's diaries)
Leanne Wolfe’s parents Collette and Anthony (Inset: The cover of one of Leanne's diaries)
Leanne Wolfe’s parents Collette and Anthony
One of the diaries in which she recorded bullying
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

A woman whose daughter took her own life following a campaign of online bullying, harassment and physical abuse has forgiven those responsible.

But Collette Wolfe has called for more to be done by social media websites and the Government to crack down on cyberbullying.

Ms Wolfe lost her daughter Leanne (18) nine years ago. The teenager endured emotional and physical torture at the hands of a vicious female gang in Cork for at least three years before her death in 2007.

She left behind diaries detailing her suffering.

Now her mother has said that anyone caught bullying on social media websites should be banned.

The call follows a similar plea for new laws earlier this week by Elaine Hughes, who lost her 17-year-old son Darren to suicide in 2012. He was also bullied online.

One of the diaries in which she recorded bullying
One of the diaries in which she recorded bullying

Ms Wolfe said that despite seeing shocking messages on the social networking pages from those who bullied Leanne, she eventually forgave them.

Bible

"I saw a message of hers on one of her bullies' pages and it said, 'I know I'm hated but I'm loving the attention'. That was her saying she's dead and that she didn't care," said Ms Wolfe.

Despite suffering through the pain of Leanne's loss - she said she considered taking her own life - she forgave the bullies and said she found hope in God.

Leanne Wolfe’s parents Collette and Anthony
Leanne Wolfe’s parents Collette and Anthony

"I forgave her bullies. I had to or I'd be a different person," she said. "It was a guard who gave me a Bible. I went on a walk one day and I realised there was hope."

Ms Wolfe said it was time that social networking sites began tackling the growing crisis of online bullying.

"I think just like if you're driving drunk or without insurance, you should be banned for a period if you're caught harassing or bullying online," she said.

"The websites don't care, and why would they? But it's time they started doing more - the amount of bullying that's out there, it's at crisis stage."

One issue raised by Ms Wolfe was how the impact of cruel taunts and threats are more permanent on social media, compared with when a victim could walk away from a bully.

"Now the messages are left on sites and are there to see over and over again. In Leanne's case it tore her down," she said.

"She was thinking, 'I'm nothing', and when they're young they don't know how to deal with that.

"The act of communication is now gone. Leanne couldn't express how she was feeling, it made her feel ashamed."

While Ms Wolfe said she was grateful for the support she and her husband Anthony had received from the gardai, she supported making bullying easier to report, such as through a website.

"It's a good idea, but you have to go to the Government to fund it. The Government need to do more than sit on their hands," she said.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, contact the Samaritans on 116 123 (Ireland and UK), email jo@samaritans.org or find your local branch at www.samaritans.org

Childline runs a 24-hour confidential phone service on 1800 666666, or can be contacted by text. Children can text the word: ‘talk,’ ‘bully’ or ‘help’ to 50101. Any child can contact the line for support.

Herald

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