DEAR ABBY: I'm a 17-year-old female senior in high school. I was coerced into sex when I was 12 by a 19-year-old neighbor. He raped, molested and beat me repeatedly for two months. I come from a religious family. I was very sheltered and didn't understand most of what was happening at the time. It wasn't until I had Sex Ed that year that I fully understood.
Mom had always told me not to let anyone touch me because it was dirty and wrong. I felt guilty because I knew "something" was wrong. When I told my neighbor about the guilt, he taught me how to cut myself using a razor blade. I never told my family (or anyone else, for that matter) about what had happened to me, and I continued cutting until last year when my mom found out. I have been in and out of counseling since then.
I have horrible nightmares nearly every night. I relive memories of him beating me, molesting me and raping me. The nightmares are getting worse, and I'm falling asleep during the daytime. I don't know how to make them stop. Abby, can you help me? -- NIGHTMARES IN WICHITA, KAN.
DEAR NIGHTMARES: None of what happened was your fault. You were a child and that neighbor was an adult who took advantage of your youth and inexperience. The feelings you're experiencing are not unusual for rape victims -- fear, anger, shame, guilt, loss of power and isolation.
If you will make a police report, it will help you to regain a sense of control. It may also prevent other children from being victimized by this monster. If possible, ask to talk with a female police officer -- although many police departments provide special training to all their officers so victims are treated in a sensitive and caring manner.
Being able to give voice to your feelings will go a long way toward making your nightmares go away. It will help you immensely if you'll talk with a professional counselor at a rape treatment center or crisis center. For you, that would be the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center. Its 24-hour toll-free number (for Kansas residents only) is (877) 927-2248. The website is www.wichitasac.com. Please don't wait. People there will help you if you'll give them a chance.