DEAR ABBY: Thank you for printing the letter from "Vic in Graham, N.C.," who arranged a sexual experience for his friend, "Kent," who is 95 percent paralyzed. It's a controversial subject that needed airing. Thank you, too, for your direct and supportive reply in which you confirmed that (a) people with disabilities DO have sexual feelings; (b) healthy relationships build self-esteem; (c) projecting personal moral values on an adult who is dependent is wrong; and (d) people with disabilities should be encouraged to live life as fully as possible.
My brother became a paraplegic at 17. This April he turns 47. For the last seven years he has been happily married. I know there were times following his accident when, as a single man, he contacted escort services, and I supported his choice. It not only countered major depression, but restored self-confidence, and also confirmed that while his life had dramatically changed, he was still LIVING. -- TOM IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR TOM: The letter from "Vic" touched me so deeply I knew it had to be printed, and the reply came from my heart. The mail I have received regarding that letter has been both moving and educational. People with disabilities have rights –- human rights and legal rights -– to live life as fully as possible. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I speak as a retired Christian pastor who has seen the hurt that "traditional values" unfairly inflict on people like "Kent" and "Vic." Our society has failed miserably to understand the emotional and sexual needs of people with disabilities. Since we have no institutionally sanctioned means of responding to such needs, I believe "Vic" took the next best alternative.
I hope you will initiate vigorous dialogue on this subject and raise new awareness. Thank you for your sensitive and caring statement. -- CONCERNED CLERIC IN FLORIDA
DEAR CONCERNED CLERIC: Thank you for speaking out -- although if my mail is any indication, many other Christians do not share your view.
DEAR ABBY: I know the pain "Kent" is feeling. I have been paralyzed for four years. Women ignore me completely now that I am in a chair. I am lonely and yearn for female attention. People don't realize how normal people in wheelchairs are. I am the same as they are. I just cannot move.
For "Kent's" parents to be so narrow-minded is terrible. He shouldn't be locked up and isolated. Fortunately, my own parents are more understanding, but it is still difficult for them to understand how important female companionship is to me. -- BEEN THERE IN SOUTH DAKOTA
DEAR BEEN THERE: Bless them for putting your happiness first.
DEAR ABBY: I am an adult protective services worker. Providing care for a person does not confer the right to control. In Oregon, isolating adults who are physically disabled for this or any other reason is a violation of their rights and state law.
"Vic" should call the local disability services office and speak to an adult protective services screener or investigator. The goal is not to "call in the law" on "Kent's" parents or punish them, but to help them gain a clear understanding of the rights of adults no matter what their physical condition or care requirements. -- AN APS WORKER IN OREGON
DEAR APS WORKER: Obviously, "Kent's" parents need to gain insight. Education is the answer. More on this important subject tomorrow.