DEAR ABBY: "Confused in South Carolina" wrote you regarding changing her name from her abusive stepfather's back to her biological father's. That letter could have been written by me. I did change my name for the same reasons she wants to.
I, too, was adopted at age 4 and abused throughout my adolescence by my stepfather. Changing my name didn't erase the painful memories, but it did end the association made by others to the monster who adopted me. The process wasn't expensive or burdensome. After I married, I kept my father's name and hyphenated it with my husband's. I am proud of my father's name and maintain it to this day. -- DALEVILLE, IND., READER
DEAR READER: Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I heard from quite a few people who said that by reclaiming their true identity, they felt empowered. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I say yes, she should do it. As a survivor of incest, I made the decision to legally fix something that had bothered me for a long time. It was easy and inexpensive, and I did it without an attorney. It felt good to take control. It was a freeing experience. And I'm sure the writer of that letter will agree. -- K.C., AKRON, OHIO
DEAR ABBY: I was also abused by my stepfather. Because I was only 4 when my mom met and married him, I was saddled with his name, though not formally adopted. When I was 13, my mom asked how I'd like for him to adopt me. I said, "Hell, no!" She said she understood, and not only told him he couldn't adopt me, but said I would no longer use his name. (I asked if it could be changed.)
My name was changed to her maiden name, and I can honestly say it has made all the difference in the world to me not to have been stuck with a name that would have brought back many horrible images and memories. -- MICHELLE IN HASTINGS, NEB.
DEAR ABBY: If the writer's identity was modified or completely changed by court decree, it would be advisable to seek another court decree in resuming his or her hereditary surname, which can be the surname of either biological parent. It would be less troublesome, though, to resume the surname that appears on the official birth certificate.
If the decree is approved and duly ordered, a certified copy should be sent to the state registrar having custody of the official certificate of birth. The IRS will also need to be notified, ditto for credit card issuers (if applicable). Any lawyer who charges more than $300 would not be my first choice. It pays to shop around, even in the matter of lawyer fees. -- GOOD SAMARITAN, TUPELO, MISS.
DEAR ABBY: My mother was adopted by an abuser and carried his name for 40 years. When she did, finally, take the steps to have his name officially removed from her birth certificate, she found he would have to sign the documents waiving his rights to her. She was apprehensive about any contact with this man and worried he might refuse.
Luckily, her attorney was able to serve papers without them having to speak. And to move things quickly along, he informed her stepfather that if he didn't sign, my mother would have the rights to an inheritance from him. Needless to say, he signed immediately, and my mother has never looked so relieved as the day she had her birth father's name placed back on her birth certificate. -- M.W., RICHLAND, WASH.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600