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She was just a little girl when her brother did these things. Now she's dying and she wrote him a letter.

Sexual and physical abuse affects far too many children, and it haunts those children as they become adults. One dying woman's last wish is for her brother to see her letter so he might forgive himself, or at least know that she forgave him. While in this case she chose not to report him, that is clearly her choice and not suitable for every situation. TRIGGER WARNING: This is an open, personal letter from a woman who experienced ongoing sexual and physical abuse as a child. It doesn't delve into graphic detail, but it may still be upsetting to readers. Please use your judgment before reading.

She was just a little girl when her brother did these things. Now she's dying and she wrote him a letter.

Dear brother,

It has taken four years to call you my brother. In my 7383 days of existence, I have lived through 2920 days of calling you monster. Do you remember? Do you remember how it began? It was a game. You invited me into your small blanket fort and told me you were going to protect me from monsters. Little did I know that you were one of them. I played the charade of "show me yours and I'll show you mine" only to be poked at as curiosity struck through your mind and body. Gradually your game became more and more complex. I can still remember being told, "shhhh, this is our little secret." 2920 days of my life gone.


After 365 days I remember being told that kissing was something kids do. 2920 days of my life gone.

After 730 days it became laying in a dark corner as you felt some sort of pleasure in seeing me bare. You enjoyed my shame and found some sort of sick happiness in your idea of a game. 2920 days of my life gone.

After 1095 days I was 11 and began to have older friends who had boyfriends and this was when I knew you were wrong. I felt wronged and told you it wasn't right. From then on you blamed me and said it was my fault. You accused me of somehow starting it all. I can remember countless days of being locked up in my closet. Countless days of being hit in the face whenever I didn't listen. Countless doctor appointments with the excuse of "I fell." Countless broken bones. Several dislocated joints. Everyone thought I was just clumsy. If only they knew. 2920 days of my life gone.

On day 2898 I became sick. I was throwing up every morning. I began to feel different. Mom thought it was strep. Dad thought it was a bad case of the flu. Oh, but you knew. You walked me to the clinic and that was that. On day 2920 you left and never came back. You disappeared. No one knew where you were.

On my 17th birthday I saw you in Chicago. I followed you for quite some time. Thought about all the ways I could hurt you back. You were with another woman and oh my heart wanted to rip to shreds because she didn't know the agony you put me through. I could have hurt you but I chose to walk away.

It has been three years since I've seen you. And there's something I've gotta say.

Thank you.

Because of you I lived. I survived. I am a fighter. I made it through. All those times you felt strong because I looked weak. Well look at me now. I made it to nearly hell and back. Here I am. I am not a victim anymore. I am a victor. Those 2920 days taught me to be brave. To do hard things. To not run from harm. I am who I am today because of who you were.

I know who you are. I have kept tabs on you. You don't have to drink or do drugs. You don't have to harm yourself because of the guilt you feel. You were my monster but the game is over. You can be my brother. You don't have to be a monster for your whole life. You can be better.

I could have reported you but I chose to forgive you. So here I am. Forgiveness is yours if you take it.

Life is short. I am sick. And for me, my timespan is shortened. But I am fighting to live, each day fighting my disease because that's how 2920 days of my life made all the difference. I will not give up. The dark days in dark corners only give me more motivation to fight.

I'm getting more sick and weaker each day but I wanted to forgive you now and I hope this reaches you. I want my brother back and only hope you can forgive yourself enough to move past the guilt in order to have your sister back in your life.

Your sister,

-C

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less