DEAR ABBY: Last Sunday I attended church as usual. After the service, another woman and I started talking and the next thing I knew, we were having lunch together.
Over lunch, the other woman told me about her life. She said that as a child she had been molested by her father and when she refused his sexual advances, he started to malign her socially, emotionally and mentally. She no longer lives in the same town with him.
I have no experience or training as a relationship counselor, and found my tongue tied over her story. What should I have said to her? -- UNCOMFORTABLE IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: The proper response would have been to acknowledge that her youth had been very difficult, but that she's a survivor and you're glad she got away from her abuser.
It is unusual for someone to reveal that much to a stranger, and had the woman confided in me I would have asked if she'd had counseling to help her deal with it. If the answer was no, I'd have recommended she get it so she could lay her past to rest.
DEAR ABBY: I desperately need some guidance because I'm afraid I'm putting myself in grave danger.
I lost my virginity when I was 16 to a boy I hardly knew. I am now 20 and off to college, and I have literally lost count of the number of men I have had sex with. Only a handful of them have actually been boyfriends. I always feel horrible and used after sex, not to mention that I am constantly worried about STDs and pregnancy since I never use protection. Yet I can't stop being promiscuous, and I can't settle down with any one person. My self-worth has disintegrated, and sex has become meaningless to me.
Abby, please set me straight. I'm so lost and don't know who to confide in. -- SCARED AND ASHAMED IN WASHINGTON
DEAR SCARED: Thank you for trusting me with your problem. When you get to school, check in with the student health center. You need to be examined -- and treated, if necessary -- for STDs. You also need to talk to a mental health professional to understand what has been driving your sexually compulsive behavior. (Often the reasons have nothing to do with sexual desire.) You are right that your behavior could have serious consequences, physically and emotionally. So please make getting professional help your first priority.
DEAR ABBY: I met a girl at school who isn't the prettiest girl I've ever seen, but she's one of the nicest people you will ever meet. I really like her, but I'm scared to tell her how I feel. Would you please give me some advice on how to approach her? -- CONFUSED IN MARYLAND
DEAR CONFUSED: The best way to "approach" someone is to simply show an interest. Say hello when you see her. If you share a class together, offer to study together. If there is an athletic event, a school play or a party, ask if she plans to attend, or would like to sit with you. You don't have to declare undying love -- just be friendly.
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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