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by Abigail Van Buren

Childhood Abuse Led Woman to Long Life of Promiscuity

DEAR ABBY: I was molested by my sister's husband in 1959. I was 5 years old. Growing up in the late '50s and '60s, sexual abuse was never discussed in my parents' home. It just wasn't done then. Of course, my brother-in-law told me it was "our little secret."

This has affected my entire life. I didn't get counseling for it because I didn't remember it. I became promiscuous at a young age, but I cannot remember any of the sexual episodes. I have been with several thousand men and don't remember any of them.

I came up with a theory that each time, I went into a "fugue state." I understand it's common in children who are molested young. I am horribly ashamed of my behavior, and I beg God nightly for forgiveness.

I'm married with a 29-year-old son, and my husband and son know all about my activities during our entire marriage. I have been chaste now for more than a year and doing my best to not "fall off the wagon."

My sister and her husband are now elderly, but I still want to tell her that he abused me. He also abused his adopted daughter, who ran away when she was 14. Should I tell my sister about what he did to me, or must I take it to my grave? (We are already estranged.) -- SURVIVING IN TEXAS

DEAR SURVIVING: I am truly sorry for what you experienced and how it has affected your life, and I congratulate you for your year of sobriety. That said, I think you would benefit from talking to a mental health professional about this before deciding whether to tell your sister. I say this for your sake, not hers.

If she remained with her husband after he assaulted her young teenaged daughter (!), it won't come as a total shock to her. However, she may be so calloused or deeply in denial that she won't react or apologize, so do not expect it.