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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for your response to "Intimidated in Toronto," advising the young woman that she does not have to put up with sexual harassment at work. As the nation's largest nonprofit working women's organization, "9to5" hears from thousands of women of all ages who have also been harassed and felt alone and confused. However, it's extremely important to let your readers know that harassing behavior is not only improper -- it's illegal.

Although it is estimated that one in four women have been sexually harassed, far fewer file a complaint -- because they don't know what their rights are or how to enforce them. It would be an invaluable service for you to let your readers know that quitting the job is NOT the only option available. Victims of harassment have legal recourse. As you correctly pointed out, it is quite likely that other female employees have been subjected to the same behavior. It is also quite likely that his harassment will continue until someone says, "Enough is enough!" and takes action to impose consequences through legal channels.

If any of your readers is being sexually harassed, please let him or her know that "9to5" has a toll-free Job Survival Hotline, 1-800-522-0925, with trained counselors who provide free information on workplace issues. Thank you once again for shedding light on this important subject. -- MEG LEWIS-SIDIME, PUBLIC AFFAIRS COORDINATOR, 9TO5, MILWAUKEE

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the letter from the 16-year-old girl whose boss is hugging, kissing and touching her in places he shouldn't be.

I am a law enforcement officer and would like to inform "Intimidated" that the actions of her boss are against the law. In the state of Washington, from the information given, an appropriate charge would be "sexual misconduct with a minor in the second degree." The kind of touching she describes, the age difference of the two parties involved, and the fact that her boss is abusing a supervisory position he holds over her are all elements of this crime. I am sure Canadian law has a similar statute.

Sexual crimes can be very debilitating to the victims, as is evidenced in the letter of the girl who wrote to you. I would urge her to quit that job immediately and get her parents and the police involved. Sexual criminals usually have many victims. Not only would she be helping herself, but many other past, present and future victims. -- TONY BRITTON, EVERETT, WASH.

DEAR TONY: I have received a bushel of mail in response to the letter from the sexually harassed teen-age girl in Toronto. Several were from law enforcement personnel such as yourself, and an astonishing number came from women who had also been sexually harassed by their employers as inexperienced teen-agers.

One pointed out that unless the girl takes control of the situation and reports it, it could affect the way she lives the rest of her life, because victims blame themselves, which leads to making bad choices and failure later in life.

A crime victim specialist in Oregon wrote: "While reporting the abuse does the obvious and stops the abuse, it also begins the healing process from 'victim' to 'survivor.' It is important for victims to understand that a sex offender offends by power and control. By reporting such offenses to the police, you are taking back that control."

Counseling would also be helpful to reassure the girl and let her know that none of this was her fault.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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