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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Abused as Child Still Bears Pain of Waiting to Tell

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to the letter signed "Living in God's Glory and Grace," which described a so-called respectable, churchgoing man who had been a child molester for years, but nobody suspected it until he was caught.

Recently my 10-year-old niece was molested by a family member. She is not getting counseling and seems to be fine; however, this event brought out an issue that my sister and I kept hidden for close to 20 years. We are now 28 and 29, but when we were 10 and 11, a family friend molested me on a camping trip. He had repeatedly molested my sister prior to that, but I found out only after I confessed my tragedy. Although the man never threatened to harm us, it was an unspoken command that we were going to keep it to ourselves.

The day after my niece came forward, a flood of emotions overcame me. We were at my sister's house and I told my mom everything. Mom contacted the police and they sent someone out. We learned that this man now lives in Florida. (We live in California.) The police in both states did extensive background checks, but no records of any kind were found. We were told that they did not have enough manpower to pursue this; also, too much time had elapsed. Today this man is free to do whatever he pleases -- including molesting other children.

I pray every day that this was a one-time incident, but somehow I'm not sure.

Please tell your young readers never to be afraid to tell someone right away. Twenty years proved far too long to wait. -- NO JUSTICE SERVED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR NO JUSTICE SERVED: Far too often, many child molesters go unpunished because their victims are too shy or embarrassed to come forward, or worse yet, because they fear they will not be believed. But the suffering of not reporting abuse can be worse then any embarrassment or disbelief one might encounter. I encourage anyone who has been molested to summon the courage to report the crime, and if the first person you tell doesn't believe you, keep telling people until you find someone who does believe you.