Ben, it's been nearly six years since you left the horrors of Winterbourne View and though much has changed, battles remain. Five years on I write to you to tell you just how amazing and strong you are, and of the huge impact that you, my big brother, have on my life.
There are moments, moments shared that will never be forgotten.
Moments of pure joy, seared on the memory like a beautiful branding on the ugliness of life. Moments of emptiness, longing for someone to understand a world beyond all contemplation. Moments of sadness, lost in an abyss far deeper and more terrifying than even the darkest of worlds. Moments of fear; where the slimmest possibility of hope seemed to simply ebb away, unreachable by the quivering hand.
All of these moments are moments we’ve shared, moments that belong to us; as people, as family, as friends, as siblings.
It’s odd isn’t it, Ben? That we might merely be siblings. Thrown together by biology, grown together by circumstance. If we can call it together, that is. Equally odd is that we might merely be siblings in a world that has torn us apart for many years of our lives and left us desperate, fighting for the relationship that we now have.
You are my brother, older, wiser, more experienced than I. Yet, here I sit as your little sister, fighting your battles, working to improve your life, entangling my dreams in yours because you - my autistic big brother with a world of horrendous experience - deserve safety, respect, dignity and love far outweighing that which you have so far experienced.
You deserve to grow, to allow the funny man that we all know the opportunity to be himself with anyone and everyone that you choose. You deserve the life that I have managed to experience despite everything. Friendships, stability, hope, humility and opportunity in a world that allows you all, and more, as it guides your every step.
It’s strange isn’t it, Ben? That I might know so much about you, and you so little about me? I know your world: your daily rituals, your favourite things, your greatest fears. I know how you have hurt and how you have cried and I know that, as your sister who has battled beside you to maintain a relationship that I cherish more than you could ever know, I have gained the most fortunate and blessed place in your heart and in your life.
How I wish that I could take your burdens from you, reverse the pain you have experienced, let you live life unchallenged by the people that have broken you. My innocent big brother with a heart that even the kindest people should envy, you do not deserve the pain with which you live. And here, in the absence of miracles and time-changing clocks, I can only hope that my presence in your life can alleviate something, give you good memories and that you might know to trust someone in the wake of such horror.
Your life has been a horror show, a series of events that have shown you just how delicate life is, how delicate emotions are, how delicate people are and how horrendous humanity can be. Through you we have learned the same, and though we are forced to trust, there is fear every day that someone or something may take you back to where you have been before.
I am your sister. I love you as a sister and as a parent and as a friend, in a family that has cracked under the pressure and strain of so many things. Our mother and I share your world from a different perspective; ours is a world of paperwork, phone calls, dreams, hopes and worries and we vie for you to have the future you deserve - that which you have always deserved.
I love you brother, best friend, clown of the family. I love all and everything of you, and wonder often at how easily we have turned the childhood that we had - so separate, so different - into an adulthood so intertwined in love, determination and respect. I do not regret a moment of the fight, only that I might have fought harder. I don't regret a single sacrifice because I know, always, that the brother most can only dream of having, is - under a veil of challenges and hardship - most undoubtedly mine.
From you I have learnt my world: to love, to trust, to cherish, to work hard, to dream big and to achieve. From you I have learnt to be determined, to keep going in the face of adversity and to be grateful for all that I have and all that I will ever be. You are my teacher, I am your student and Ben, you never fail to teach me something new, something amazing.
Amazing is what you are, and what I aspire to be. There will be sadness, there will be desperation, there will be pain, but as I sit here today I know the value of battling through. Anything to be by the side of the most amazing, brave and deserving man that I know.
Emma's brother, Ben, spent 11 months at Winterbourne View, an assessment and treatment unit in Gloucestershire, which was exposed in 2011 by BBC Panorama for abusing the people in its care. Since then Emma and her family has been campaigning with Mencap to close places like Winterbourne View and make sure people like Ben are instead getting the right support they need close to their homes and families.