Dear Carolyn:

I am 18 and nearly finished with high school. Last July when I was in France, I was date-raped by an older French man. I have had a very rocky year emotionally, with a lot of nightmares and flashbacks. I have, in fact, gone to therapy since September, and I am tremendously better but still coping with a lot of pain.

This year I have worked as an intern at the French Embassy, and last Friday I finally mustered up the courage to ask about the procedures for prosecution of rape in France. The woman I asked responded in a warm and maternal way, and helped me understand all my options. The best seems to be sending a letter to the special prosecutor of the city where it happened.

I wrote the letter, but I haven't decided whether to send it. I am afraid if I keep pursuing this, it will dredge up more pain. But I am torn because I think this might provide closure for me and allow me to move on. My therapist said I should make sure this thing doesn't spiral out of my control. She thinks this is another one of my attempts to heal in a clean sweep, which, unfortunately, doesn't seem possible.

N.

I'm so sorry. Please take care of yourself.

And that's about all I'm willing to tell you to do. Of the people you've asked for help, the ones you should listen to are, in descending order: yourself, your therapist, the embassy woman, me. Which means I won't be urging you to do anything your gut or your much better informed therapist advises against.

I will say this about "closure": I hate it. Loathe it. Despise it. Granted, I see how it works in the context of therapy--a rape counselor explained to me that it's a useful tool to help people move beyond a traumatic event--but it's an idea that should have stayed locked in a treatment room.

The "closure" that now infects public discourse is a neat little bow that wraps up all our troubles. It's a canard, a cruel tease for people who've already suffered enough. Want certainty? Here it is: Terrible things happen, they can't be un-happened, and all we can do with them is not let them beat us.

(Hold on to breakfast, everyone--I'm having a Stuart Smalley moment.)

You, N., are so, so far from defeated. You're bright, you're graduating, you've got an internship to be proud of, you've got guts to spare. You've seen Hell and you've chosen Earth--and you confirm that choice every morning when you get out of bed and draw another breath and give the world another crack at you. You do it because you know, better than you think, that you can take it. And you know the world that produced your rapist is the same one that makes mommies and warm cookies and best friends and Jane Austen heroines and the campfire scene in "Blazing Saddles."

Speaking of good things . . . Consider prosecution only in terms of real and positive results: seeing him punished, your rape avenged, other women protected. Then decide if any of these is worth the added pain. Then be realistic. Will this added pain be squandered on a hopeless cause? Do you have evidence and the law behind you? Rape prosecutions are notoriously difficult, date rape is worse, and date rape overseas--you'd best know exactly what you're getting into, well before you get into it.

Dear Carolyn:

Last year I met a man, and I thought we really hit it off, but I was in a relationship that died a month later. Now, whenever we see each other socially, sparks fly. I took this as interest and asked him out. He refused and said we would go out some other time. I gave up but kept tabs on him through a mutual friend. Recently he voluntarily told this friend that he thought we got along well and would probably have awesome sex and a great relationship, but he was afraid of getting hurt.

One of the reasons I am drawn to him is his intensely romantic side and because he said he did not want to have sex unless he loved the person. I saw him recently and he actually bragged about having a one-nighter with some person he'd been lusting over for a long time. Later I told him I was interested in him, and he again rebuffed me by telling me I am too busy (How would he know since he never calls me?). I was insulted by his response and don't think he ever will call. Should I give up?

Rebuffed

He's manipulative and deeply infatuated with himself; you're gullible and deeply infatuated with him. You're perfect for him.

But if you want your dignity back, giving up is a start.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon today or at 8 p.m. Monday on The Post's Web site, www.washingtonpost.com