My father trafficked me throughout my entire childhood. It looked nothing like people think.

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.


I'm pretty open about my story. My father trafficked me from the ages of about 5 or 6 until I was a teenager. Knowing this, I can say, I was never once tied up in a dark place such as this picture. It's important for people to educate themselves on what trafficking can really look like.

Many, many times I walked into an amusement parks dressing room—Hershey, Dorney, etc.—with my father, told to wait in the stall, and a few minutes later another man came in acting like he was looking for his daughter. And that easily, a "drop" was made. Out I would walk holding his hand, nothing anyone would think twice about. Usually I'd be given something like an ice cream cone, etc.

And like me, these children are often not treated "badly." I mean, yes, they're treated awfully and violated beyond words. I mean they're are not hit, tied up, or beat up. Most of the time, they're treated with fake kindness (which really fucks up children's trust later on in life). But they're often praised, given treats, and made to feel like what is happening is a good (and normal or because they're special).

How many vacations we went on where I was left for a minute at the pool, until a man came and I left with him for a while. Airports where I was passed over to another man in a crowd, looking like any girl going from her dad or uncle to her dad or uncle. Again, a public drop and nothing suspicious.

Most children trafficked in the US are so conditioned they don't know anything else. It's their normal. I think back as an adult and think, "Why didn't I scream out for help? Make a scene?" But I had to forgive my inner child. There was no reason I knew to scream out for help. I wasn't in danger; this was just my normal life.

I say all of this to simply say, it's really important we bring attention to child trafficking in the US. VERY important. And posters like this can get the conversation going, but we also need to educate people that it doesn't all look like this. I lived in Robesonia, a tiny nothing town. My father was a little league coach. My mother knew and helped some with these happenings; and she was just a stay-at-home, small town mom. These things happen everywhere and can look very normal.

Best thing we can do is talk to children. We don't need to be graphic; but teachers, schools, need to talk to children about things like this in a child-safe way. Assume these children aren't being taken to doctors. Teachers can make a huge difference. Talk to children. Go with your gut. Schools need to not be scared to act on what they feel. Conrad Wesier had a social worker in the elementary school who pulled me out of class on more than one occasion after teachers noticed "things" and it went nowhere. Social services were never notified. And they should have been. Period.

And what you can do is watch. Pay attention. Be mindful. If you're waiting in line at a park, notice who goes in and out with what child. If you see something; speak up. If you're wrong, fine you ruined someone's day, apologize. If you're right, you saved someone's life.

This post originally appeared on Melanie Cholish's Facebook page. It has been edited lightly for publication.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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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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