Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

New Job Triggers Memories of Violent Sexual Assault

DEAR ABBY: A couple of years ago, I was working as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home. One day, I decided to stay beyond my usual evening shift into the night shift, as I had a few times before. While working the night shift, I was violently sexually assaulted by a fellow CNA. The incident caused me to be so traumatized that I quit that job within the next few days.

Although I reported the co-worker to my boss, they did next to nothing about it. I also reported him to the police, but as far as I know, nothing has been done. I moved on to doing in-home care and then to an assisted living facility.

I have recently taken a higher-paying CNA position in another nursing home. This nursing home has so many similarities to the former one that I find myself having anxiety attacks, flashbacks and the feeling of constantly having to watch my back. I'm extremely uncomfortable here and constantly feel afraid to go to work. My husband has a hard time understanding the effects of such a traumatizing event, so I have a difficult time getting sympathy from him.

I really want to quit this job. I'm under so much mental and emotional stress that I feel like it's ruining me. At the same time, we need the money, and I wonder if I should just push through and stick with it. If I quit, I'm afraid my husband won't fully understand why I couldn't just stay at the job, and it may cause conflict as well as financial stress. Should I quit and find a place that's less of a trigger or stick it out? -- WORN DOWN IN WASHINGTON

DEAR WORN DOWN: You should have received counseling after your assault to help you get past these triggers, which even if you quit this job may continue to occur in other environments. Before making this decision, please consult a licensed therapist who specializes in treating patients who suffer from PTSD.

Although my impulse is to advise you to quit "stat," because of your husband's inability to understand what you have gone through, a mental health professional may be able to help him understand why you may need to work in in-home care or an assisted living facility rather than for this employer.