DEAR ABBY: While I was going through some old papers, I came across a letter you wrote to me in 1984. At the time, I was 16 and suffering from the effects of several years of sexual abuse by my stepfather. I was suicidal and in one of the darkest places in hell. You gave me sound advice: "Confide in a trusted adult and call the Child Abuse Hotline."
I can't recall if I ever thanked you, Abby, so I'm thanking you now for sending a ray of hope into my prison of pain and confusion.
I did get help and learned that there are more good, caring people in the world than villains.
I'm now working on my master's degree in teaching. I work with homeless and abused children. My career goal is to be an international English teacher in Asia or Africa.
I dream of becoming an advocate for abused children because there are many in situations far worse than mine when I sought your help.
Although I wish I had never been abused, I have emerged stronger, more self-confident and more motivated than I might have been had my childhood been easier.
Many people have helped me. Although I can't repay them individually, I can do my best to pass on the love and care I received.
Thanks again for caring, Abby. Many of us need guidance when we're stumbling in the dark. Sign me ... HEALED IN BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WASH.
DEAR HEALED: No need to thank me -- that's what I'm here for.
Victims of child abuse should know that help is available and where to find it. The first step is to call the Child Abuse Hotline: (800) 422-4453. (The hotline is a program of Childhelp USA and is sponsored by IOF Foresters.)