Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I dated a childhood friend for five years, and I felt very safe with him. However, last December, he drugged my wine and raped me. I am 24 years old and would have been careful around someone I didn't know so well, but I never suspected anyone I knew would do such a horrible thing.

His mother still refuses to believe he raped me. Rather than doubt that a son could do such a thing, a parent should encourage the young man to get counseling. Rape is not a harmless "boys will be boys" game -- it is violence.

There are two things I would like to say. To other women: Be very careful of whom you are alone with no matter how well you think you know the man, and watch your drink at all times.

To friends and parents of the rapist: When a woman says she has been raped, please believe her. Most women will not put themselves through the painful experience of telling people they have been raped unless it is true.

Abby, I don't blame myself for what happened, but I wish I had been more aware and less trusting. -- SURVIVOR IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR SURVIVOR: Having known the man since childhood, there was no reason not to trust him. You could not have foreseen that he would criminally violate you. According to studies cited by Gail Abarbanel, president of The Rape Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif., 80 percent of rapes are committed by someone the woman knows. Although acquaintance rape is often questioned, women MUST report such crimes to the authorities. A woman has a right to say no to sex, and when a man denies her the right to say no by slipping her drugs or forcing her, he is committing a criminal act. If the victim doesn't report him, he will be free to rape again.

I urge you to report your childhood friend's crime to the authorities to stop him from violating another woman as he did you.

DEAR ABBY: I am disturbed by the way some people categorize others. I will use myself as an example.

I have eight piercings in one ear -- none in the other -- and a tongue ring. (I also have a couple of tattoos, but they are not visible.) Right away, people put me in the "freak" category. What they do not know is that I am the mother of a beautiful 5-month-old girl. I am totally responsible for her and work very hard to give her a "normal" life without a father.

I need a job, and when I am on interviews, everything goes great until they notice my tongue ring. Then the interviewer's attitude changes completely.

People have different ways of showing their individualism, Abby. For some, it's through art, clothes, hairstyles, etc. I won't say I never "judge a book by its cover," but I try not to. I wish employers would take the time to get to know people before they judge them. -- OUT-OF-WORK MOM

DEAR OUT-OF-WORK: First impressions do count. Most employers are conservative and expect a certain amount of conformity from prospective employees. Before your next interview, remove the tongue ring. In time -- once you've proven yourself to be a valuable employee -- perhaps you can start revealing more of your individualism in stages. Good luck.

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

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-size, 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, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-660