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by Abigail Van Buren

Girl Stands Her Ground Against Molester on Trial

DEAR ABBY: Two years ago, my 8-year-old daughter and her friend were molested by a teenage boy from our church. My daughter came to me and told me about it. I immediately took her to the hospital and called the police.

This began a year of talking to detectives, district attorneys and therapists. During all this time, we were urged by friends of the boy's parents and other church members not to press charges. We had to move twice to avoid conflict with all the people who thought he was innocent.

When the court date finally arrived, my daughter and her friend took the stand separately to tell their stories while the boy and his parents stared at them.

My daughter showed remarkable courage. When the public defender tried to twist her words, she stood firm. At one point, she told the public defender that he was a liar when he said something untrue. She actually made the judge laugh.

I will not tell you she wasn't upset when she walked out of the courtroom. She went to her friend and gave her a big hug. Then her friend went in to testify. The boy was convicted.

I am sharing this story because our children are stronger than we give them credit for. Professionals have told me that the reason my daughter is OK now is because I let her stand up for herself and I believed in her.

I encourage parents and guardians of molested children to let the children stand up for themselves. Don't try to shelter them from the legal process. It is healing for them to assert their rights. -- STANDING UP FOR CHILDREN'S RIGHTS

DEAR STANDING UP: Thank you for the great letter. When you encouraged your daughter to fight back using the legal system, you empowered her and gave her closure. Too many innocent victims remain silent out of shame and fear -– and by doing so, they carry wounds that can last a lifetime.

DEAR ABBY: I have a 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. She thinks my husband is her real father. She even carries his last name. Her real dad was an abusive drug addict who has had no contact with us.

Should I tell her the truth now? One day? Ever? I don't want him in her life, but I'm afraid that someday someone may slip and tell her, and then she will never forgive me.

Abby, this is so hard. I don't want to hurt my daughter, my husband or my other kids. -- NEEDS HELP IN TEXAS

DEAR NEEDS: Tell your daughter now that you were married once before. She will have questions. Answer them honestly. The longer you put this off, the greater her shock will be. So do it now.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a single father of an 18-month-old and am wondering why so many public places have no baby-changing stations available in areas where men can use them. I find it hard to shop or go out to eat because of this. I hope somebody can rectify this problem, or a lot of single dads will be looking for other places to spend their money. -- SINGLE DAD IN NEW YORK

DEAR SINGLE DAD: Over the past 10 years, I have noticed more and more fathers out with their babies and small children at shopping centers, restaurants, etc. Businesses that fail to recognize this culture change are shortsighted when they make it difficult for single dads or fathers who have their little ones for visitation. A word to the wise ...

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