DEAR ABBY: I was molested at the age of 9. It went on for about five years. Eventually the man who molested me also raped me. I tried numerous times to tell my mother, but she would never believe me. I even went to the school counselor.
My mother had a serious alcohol problem and didn't seem to realize what was going on. "Ronny," the man who raped me, used to beat my mother until she was unconscious -- and then call me in and tell me it was my fault for telling on him, and that I should let him do what he wanted or he would hurt my mother again. Because I was only 9, I felt like I had to protect her.
Ronny has since passed away, but I am still scarred by what happened to me. My mother has never forgiven herself for not believing me, and I have suppressed much of what happened. I am scared that one day all of those memories are going to come flooding back and hurt me all over again.
What do you think I should do? Should I leave the memories buried, or find a way to get them out and move on? I have a very understanding man in my life, and we are engaged to be married. Please help me. -- WANTS TO MOVE ON IN HOUSTON
DEAR WANTS TO MOVE ON: The best way to start a new life is to leave the baggage from the old one behind. You were manipulated and victimized by a monster, and counseling can help you to close that horrendous chapter in your life forever.
I received the following letter the morning after yours arrived. Please read it:
DEAR ABBY: I was raped at 13. The only person I told was a girlfriend, who told me it was my fault because I was too outspoken and attractive. After that, I developed a severe social phobia and became shy and nearly housebound. I could barely talk to people my own age, let alone make friends or date.
In college, I finally sought counseling and began to realize that what happened to me wasn't my fault. I had to decide whether or not I was going to sacrifice more precious years to my fears or move beyond them.
Having been sexually violated is still something I deal with, but I have great friends, a wonderful and understanding man in my life, and the confidence to try to improve myself.
Everyone who has been sexually violated needs to talk to a professional. At the very least, a child should talk to an adult. It takes a long time to get over being raped, but with the right help it doesn't have to take 10 years. -- NOT AFRAID ANYMORE
DEAR NOT AFRAID: Congratulations for finding the courage to reach out and get the help you needed. I hope other victims of sexual assault will see your letter and learn from it that they were not at fault for the crime that happened to them, and that help is available if they will only reach out. Here's how: Pick up the phone and call 800-656-4673. It's the toll-free number for the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (R.A.I.N.N.), and callers will automatically be connected to a crisis center in their area.