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by Abigail Van Buren

Young Lover Could Become a Criminal When He Turns 18

DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter from "Shot in the Heart," a 17-year-old young man who was in love with a 15-year-old "girl of his dreams." His 18th birthday was approaching, and he was worried that he and his girl would have to separate because he would be an adult. He asked if there was anything he could do.

You advised that because his girlfriend's parents had not yet objected to the age difference, they probably would not -– and told him to talk to them.

Abby, although your answer had merit and was logical, our laws are not always so.

In this country there are thousands of boys in prison who had this same problem. If he has intimate relations with her, which could be as simple as kissing and touching, he could find himself in prison. The girl or her parents could have a change of heart. All it would take is for them to call the police.

There are many cases of parents allowing their daughter's boyfriend to spend the night, only to report the boy to the authorities later. -- EX-CORRECTIONAL OFFICER WHO HAS SEEN IT ALL

DEAR EX: Thank you for an important letter. The implications are chilling. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Shot in the Heart's" story is a familiar one. Let me tell you what happened to my sister-in-law's nephew, "Nicky."

When Nicky was 17, his girlfriend, "Andi," was 15. Andi's parents liked Nicky and were fully aware of her sexual relationship with him.

Andi was still 15 when Nicky turned 18. Then Andi got pregnant. When she told her parents the news (she felt she had very cool parents and could tell them anything), they filed charges against Nicky because he was now an adult.

The outcome? The ruling of the court was that for the rest of Nicky's life, no matter where he moves, he will be required by law to register as a sex offender. (He is also forbidden to have any contact with Andi, whose parents made her get an abortion.) The law enforcement agency that Nicky registers with is legally required to send out fliers letting Nicky's new neighbors know that a sex offender has moved into their area.

This will follow Nicky for the rest of his life. Everywhere he goes, people will regard him as a sick and evil person. They won't bother to find out the specifics of what occurred.

"Shot in the Heart" needs to consider his future, get counseling, and above all, realize that it could happen to him!

Please Abby, spread the word. People need to be aware. -- FURIOUS IN FLORIDA

DEAR FURIOUS: That girl's parents were as much at fault for what happened as the young man was. That they would turn on him, and that he must now carry the label of "sex offender" for the rest of his life, is wrong.

I have two letters on my desk from men responding to the letter from "Shot in the Heart," relating that they have been happily married for 48 and 50 years, respectively. One man was 22 and the other 18 when they fell in love with their wives, both of whom were in their early teens. However, that was long ago, and times have changed.

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