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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: While I was going through some old papers, I came across a letter you wrote to me in 1984. At the time, I was 16 and suffering from the effects of several years of sexual abuse by my stepfather. I was suicidal and in one of the darkest places in hell. You gave me sound advice: "Confide in a trusted adult and call the Child Abuse Hotline."

I can't recall if I ever thanked you, Abby, so I'm thanking you now for sending a ray of hope into my prison of pain and confusion.

I did get help and learned that there are more good, caring people in the world than villains.

I'm now working on my master's degree in teaching. I work with homeless and abused children. My career goal is to be an international English teacher in Asia or Africa.

I dream of becoming an advocate for abused children because there are many in situations far worse than mine when I sought your help.

Although I wish I had never been abused, I have emerged stronger, more self-confident and more motivated than I might have been had my childhood been easier.

Many people have helped me. Although I can't repay them individually, I can do my best to pass on the love and care I received.

Thanks again for caring, Abby. Many of us need guidance when we're stumbling in the dark. Sign me ... HEALED IN BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WASH.

DEAR HEALED: No need to thank me -- that's what I'm here for.

Victims of child abuse should know that help is available and where to find it. The first step is to call the Child Abuse Hotline: (800) 422-4453. (The hotline is a program of Childhelp USA and is sponsored by IOF Foresters.)

DEAR ABBY: I am a 33-year-old woman married to a man 15 years my senior. I have never been happier than I am in this marriage. Alec and I were both married before. He has three grown children, and I love them very much.

Two of his children are married and have their own problems. Now for our problem: One (whom I'll call Sonny) lives with us. He is 25 years old and very lazy. He refuses to do anything around the house to help, including cleaning his room, bathroom, or even picking up after himself. He can't hold a job. Every time he finds one, he quits. He parties all night and sits around all day watching television while everyone else is at work.

My husband agrees that Sonny is lazy, but says there is nothing he can do about it. I'm at the end of my rope. I love my husband very much, but Sonny has become a big problem in our marriage. Your thoughts, please. -- FRUSTRATED

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Sonny is clearly taking advantage of you both, but nothing will change until his father puts his foot down and quits being a softy. As long as he's allowed to, Sonny will stay home and watch television all day. Your husband is doing his son no favor by tolerating his shiftless behavior.

It's high time Sonny got a job and found a place of his own. Tell Alec for Sonny's sake that he should hang tough.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112; (816) 932-6600