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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing about a recent letter signed "No Justice Served in California." I am a police lieutenant who has been involved in the investigation of child molesters for the past 10 years, and I want you and your readers to know the following about child molesters:

Research, literature in the field and my personal experience have shown that child molesters usually commit many sex crimes involving many victims. Unlike other crimes, delayed disclosure of sexual abuse is the rule -- not the exception. It is common for victims to wait weeks, months or even years before disclosing their abuse. Many states provide for this in their laws that cover statutes of limitations (how long after the crime is committed the offender can be prosecuted).

In Texas, offenders can usually be prosecuted for child sexual abuse for a period of 10 years after the crime is committed, unless they leave the state during that 10-year period. In that instance, the time the offender is absent from the state does not count against the 10-year limit. A few years ago, I was involved in the successful prosecution of a father who molested his daughter when she was a teen-ager. She was married and a law student when she finally disclosed the abuse, 12 years after it happened.

Please tell victims of sexual abuse that it is never too late to tell. The criminal justice system must make every attempt to bring these offenders to justice, no matter how much time has passed. -- LT. BILL WALSH, DALLAS POLICE DEPARTMENT

DEAR LT. WALSH: Thank you for an important letter. All too often victims of sexual abuse are reluctant to speak up because they are frightened or blame themselves for what happened. They are unable to acknowledge that an adult would willfully hurt them, and assume the responsibility for their abuse, which leaves them afraid, ashamed and psychologically isolated. Disclosing the abuse and identifying the perpetrator can be a critical step in the healing process of the victim.

DEAR ABBY: I am a person with a handicap and have recently noticed a trend in theaters that pleases me. Two seats are provided in the back of the theater so that people in wheelchairs and their loved one or friend can attend the movies and sit together.

Unfortunately, sometimes these seats are occupied by able-bodied people. When I have asked someone to give up the seat so my wife and I could sit together, I was refused. This has probably happened to other people, too.

Abby, please advise your readers that these seats are meant to accommodate people in wheelchairs, and able-bodied people should not occupy them. And while you're at it, please thank those theater owners who thoughtfully provide seating for people with disabilities. -- MIKE A. BURK, TERRE HAUTE, IND.

DEAR MIKE: If the seats are clearly marked so that patrons know the purpose of the short row, able-bodied people should sit elsewhere. If the area is not marked, speak with the theater manager about marking them as "Reserved for people with disabilities."

Should you have trouble with a patron refusing to move, talk to the usher.

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.)

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