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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: "Scared and Alone in Britton, Mich." is NOT alone. Five years ago, I went through the exact same experience.

I, too, had been drinking heavily at a college party and was raped by a guy who had been my good friend for years. He was a close friend of my boyfriend's, and I didn't know to whom I could turn. So, like "Scared," I remained silent. I was afraid of what the guy might do to me and of what people would think. I thought if I told, I'd lose my friends.

Sadly, I lost my friends anyway. After the rape, I lost my ability to trust people or let anyone get close to me. I became unable to open up to people without thinking they had some hidden agenda. My friends didn't know what was wrong with me, and they didn't stick around to find out. I was lost and alone.

I want to tell "Scared" from personal experience: TELL SOMEONE WHAT HAPPENED RIGHT AWAY! Go to a support group. Share your experience. Call your friend and tell her. Call a hotline if you wish to remain anonymous. If you don't, you'll have difficulty making and keeping relationships for the rest of your life.

I finally received help, and now, five years later, I have found a wonderful, patient man I want to spend the rest of my life with. I couldn't have done it if I hadn't spent time talking with a counselor and meeting others who have gone through similar experiences. It's not your fault. You are not alone. The sooner you share your experience, the faster you'll heal. -- LIVING AND LOVING AGAIN IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR LIVING AND LOVING: Bless you for writing. A 1998 Centers for Disease Control Study revealed that one woman in six in the United States is a victim of rape or attempted rape. Eighty percent of rapes are acquaintance rapes.

Assault victims: Please don't be afraid to speak up. People are waiting to help you. If you wish to remain anonymous, go to the Internet and visit www.911rape.org to learn about your options. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Scared and Alone" has plenty of company. Five months ago, I got drunk at my graduation party and was raped by my friend's brother-in-law. He called me two days later, and my sister overheard my end of the conversation when he denied raping me. When she confronted me, I burst into tears and told her everything. She told our parents for me and we all went to the police.

"Scared" must understand that everyone makes mistakes. But that doesn't give anyone the right to take advantage of that mistake and commit a crime against you. There is no doubt in my mind that my attacker had done this before and would have done it again. Believe me, it is a wonderful feeling to know that because of my actions, he'll never put anyone else through what I endured. -- NO LONGER ALONE IN MISSOURI

DEAR NO LONGER ALONE: Bravo! The attacker has power over his victim only if that person remains silent. To paraphrase an old saying, "Speak the truth and the truth shall set you free."

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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