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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a former bishop (local pastor) of the Diamond Bar Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My heart broke when I read the letter from the 21-year-old LDS rape victim. Although I am responding to a letter involving a Mormon girl, I would give the same advice to anyone. She must do four things immediately:

First, she must notify the police and press charges, regardless of who the person is. She is the innocent victim of a heinous crime. The community needs to know there is a predator in their midst, and the criminal needs to be brought to justice.

Second, she must see a doctor. Pregnancy is the least of potential problems to which she was forcefully exposed.

Third, she should confide in her parents. She needs support from those who love her most. She has nothing to be ashamed of. She is a victim and needs love and understanding to heal the wounds inflicted on her. She may need counseling from a professional as well.

Fourth, she needs to confide in her bishop. He will assure her that she has committed no sin, and has done nothing requiring forgiveness. No one can take a person's chastity by force. He will tell her she is still a virgin and will remain so until she gives herself to her husband. The presence or absence of a hymen does not determine virginity or chastity. Chastity is a condition of the soul and the mind. It is not physical; it is spiritual.

To all young people who have been raped or molested, I say: "Do not feel worthless. Satan will lie to you and tell you that you are degraded, of no value, a thing of scorn; our Father in Heaven never has, and never will. Believe God; you can trust Him." -- EDWARD D. BOTTOM, DIAMOND BAR, CALIF.

DEAR MR. BOTTOM: Thank you for your compassionate and encouraging letter. I have heard from thousands of concerned people offering words of support and encouragement to the young Mormon woman. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Raped Virgin" asked if she is still a virgin. I have spoken to several hundred women in her situation. Her feelings are very normal after having survived a traumatic sexual assault. I hope she reads this, because I want her to understand: She is still a virgin. She did not give herself to anyone; she was assaulted. What happened to her was beyond her control. The choice was not hers; she is not to blame.

You gave her great advice by encouraging her to call her local rape crisis hotline. I would further encourage her to seek counseling through agencies her local police department can provide. There are counselors available who deal primarily with sexual assault victims. Counseling is an important part of the healing process. It will lead her on the road to recovery.

She is a survivor. With the support of professionals, family and friends, she can heal and put this horrible experience behind her. -- DETECTIVE NORMA PEROTTI DORMANN, SEX CRIMES UNIT, SAN DIEGO POLICE DEPARTMENT

DEAR ABBY: I would like to reply to "Raped Virgin." Yes, you are still a virgin. You have lived a clean and godly life. Please don't sell yourself short. Your parents love you and cherish you. Go immediately to your bishop. He is trained to handle many situations and will not look down on you. Most of all, please remember your Heavenly Father loves you and will heal your heartache if you allow it. -- MOTHER OF ANOTHER RAPED VIRGIN

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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