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

DEAR ABBY: I am a 14-year-old girl in my first year of high school. Two years ago, this 18-year-old guy, "John," touched me on a private area of my body. I told my mom. She didn't believe me, so she asked John if it was true. He denied it, and she accused me of being a liar.

My problem is, I am supposed to have a physical examination in a few weeks. My mom says the doctor will examine me in the place that John touched me. Even though my doctor is a woman, I don't want to go through with that part of the physical. My mom doesn't understand. Abby, please help me. How can I get out of it? -- SCARED IN NEW MEXICO

DEAR SCARED: A pelvic examination is not part of a routine physical. But since you have concerns about this, discuss them with the doctor when you see her.

That your mother refused to believe you when you reported to her that you had been taken advantage of by John is appalling; that she'd take his word above yours is worse. I hope when you talk to the doctor you'll share with her what happened to you and get the support you deserve. John should be reported. Since he has gotten away with it with you, he could easily assault another child.

DEAR ABBY: Would it be rude for my husband and me to contact our relatives before the Christmas holidays begin and politely ask them not to buy anything for us? We have relatives, with whom we are not close, who always give us gifts when we see them at Christmastime. Our finances are limited, but we feel obligated to reciprocate. How should we handle this? -- NO THANKS IN WEST VIRGINIA

DEAR NO THANKS: Yours is a question I am asked repeatedly at holiday time. Write a brief letter to your relatives explaining the circumstances. Tell them your affection for them has not waned but that your finances have; therefore you would feel more comfortable not exchanging gifts this year.

Keep in mind that the most important "gift" is the fact that you are all healthy and able to celebrate the holiday together. Not all families are so fortunate.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for your response to "Afraid in the Broken Heartland." Your warning signs of an abuser caught my eye. I recognized my husband in 11 out of the 15 you listed. I had put off leaving him out of fear for myself and our beautiful 3-year-old daughter. However, when I read that 65 percent of abusers who beat their wives go on to abuse their children, I decided I could not allow this to happen to my little girl.

I moved out and I have seen a lawyer. We will soon be free from my abusive husband and will no longer live in fear.

Thank you, Abby. Please continue to put the warning signs in your column. I pray they will help others to face the truth as they helped me. -- NO LONGER A VICTIM

DEAR NO LONGER A VICTIM: So do I, because some of the saddest letters I have received have come from grieving family members who wrote: "I only wish my daughter (or sister) had seen those warning signs before her husband killed her." I am not implying that women cannot also be abusers, because some women are. And abuse also happens between same-sex couples, I'm sad to say.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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

More like Dear Abby