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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Sexual Assault Victim Seeks Closure After 50 Years

DEAR ABBY: Fifty years ago, at the age of 17, I was raped by a high school classmate. At the time, I was living in an apartment with a friend, "Becky." She and three male classmates witnessed the attack, stood by and did nothing. (They were drunk.)

I never reported the assault because I was scared, embarrassed and ashamed. No one ever spoke about it, and Becky and I went our separate ways. I eventually married, moved away from my hometown and tried to put the incident behind me.

Fifteen years ago, I moved back and married a local man. I see all those people frequently around town, which reminds me of that terrible night. I don't think it's fair that I have had to live with this for 50 years while the others appear to have forgotten and gone on their merry way. None of them ever apologized or acknowledged their part in the attack. I remember it as vividly as if it were last week.

I would like to confront those involved. A friend suggested I privately confront my attacker. I believe calling out these people will give me peace of mind. My husband and I are planning to move out of the area, so I will never have to see any of them again. Should I confront all of them or just my attacker? Or should I let sleeping dogs lie? -- ASSAULTED IN IDAHO

DEAR ASSAULTED: Before deciding whether to confront these people after 50 years or let sleeping dogs lie, what I think you should do is discuss what happened with a licensed therapist, specifically one who works with patients who have PTSD. Whereas a half-century ago there was a tendency to blame the victims of sexual assault, we have come a long way since then, and help is available for you if you're willing to get it.

A way to find help in making this important decision would be to contact RAINN ( The toll-free phone number is 800-656-4673. RAINN is the free, confidential national sexual assault hotline, and it's available 24/7.

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Teens