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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Of course, you make your living giving your know-everything advice to needy deficients, but that does not excuse patronizing error.

You were wrong in telling "A Survivor in Florida" -- who was raped by her stepfather when she was 11 -- to harpoon her elderly, sick mother who didn't protect her, in order to exorcize what she should have resolved for herself, with psychiatric aid if necessary. Better for her to have said to her mother, "I love you," than rehash her childhood sexual abuse.

What do you know about what a woman has to do to maintain support for five children, and then, to justify her errors to herself? (And live with them.) Furthermore, do you have any assurance that harpooning the sick, elderly mother with the writer's ideas of "the truth" would result in "exorcizing" for either party? You have more responsibility to folk than that, even if that is "what you are there for." -- ANGRY IN PORTLAND, ORE.

DEAR ANGRY: The people who write to me are not "deficient." They are people less hostile than you, who have problems they would like an outside opinion in dealing with.

The elderly mother in this case sacrificed her 11-year-old daughter in order to continue to live with the monster she had married and who had raped her little girl! That mother has lived her entire adult life in blissful denial while the victim had to carry not only the burden of the crime that was committed against her, but the accusation that she had been "trying to steal her mother's husband."

I feel it is more important that "Survivor" live out her remaining years with her head up and the truth off her chest than for her mother to die with the big lie unchallenged. Sex with an 11-year-old is RAPE. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I, too, was raped by my stepfather when I was 7. For years it haunted me, and I turned to alcohol and drugs at 13. Finally, at 15, my mother and I had a big fight and I told her what happened. It was a huge relief for me even though the statute of limitations had run out. "Survivor" should tell her mom before it's too late. If the woman refuses to believe her, then God will help her see the "real him" when the time comes. -- RELIEVED IN S.C.


DEAR ABBY: You were terrific to respond to that woman the way you did. From ages 11 to 16, I was also an incest victim of my natural father. I went through the same behavior, fears and more. At 19, once at college, I took myself to counseling -- against my family's wishes. Please tell this woman to calmly confront her mother. She probably knew anyway and is blocking it. I found that out at 24. -- VETERAN SURVIVOR, GAINESVILLE, FLA.

DEAR SURVIVOR: I'm pleased you had the wisdom to seek help as early as you did. And now, I would like to quote from a letter I received from Marge Harrison of Eutawville, S.C. She is a wise lady:

"Abby, in dealing with the horror of rape, such as this woman was, it is important to remember that the reason mothers were quick to blame the victim years ago is that there was so much denial and stigma at the time. The belief was that the victims 'got themselves into the situation,' and were therefore responsible. The belief was so prevalent that even the victims believed this lie. It is only in recent years that society puts blame for rape on the aggressor -- where it belongs."

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600