Dear Abby:

I was brutally raped a few months ago by a man I had thought was kind and gentle. Afterward, I learned that he had also been violently abusive to his ex-wife and former girlfriend.

He's in jail for now, but I will have to testify against him in court soon, and I'm scared to death.

Everyone tells me to be brave and speak out, but I just want to put this all behind me. It keeps preying on my mind, and I'm frightened at night when I'm home alone. I'm afraid I'll never feel safe again. I have these nightmares that he escapes and beats me to death. Did I do the wrong thing when I reported him?

Frightened in Idaho

No, you did the right thing. Permit me to add my voice to the chorus of those urging you to be brave and testify. By standing up for yourself, you will also heal yourself. However, you should also be receiving support from a rape crisis center during this difficult time. And when you go to court, you should have a victim's advocate by your side. Pick up the phone and call 800-656-4673. It's the toll-free number of the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network. They will guide you to the help you need.

Dear Abby:

My friend "Sally" has a 14-year-old son I'll call Derek. He recently made sexual advances toward me. What frightened me was Derek's refusal to accept that I meant no when I refused and informed him that what he had in mind was immoral and illegal.

I threw the kid out of my house, called Sally, and asked her to keep her son away from me and my home. She refused to take me seriously.

The next day, I sent Sally a special delivery letter, repeating in writing how I felt about what Derek had done.

Abby, I understand that Derek is at an age when his hormones are raging, but his behavior was repulsive and offensive. I am afraid of him because he's bigger than I am -- and because he's been seen around my house late at night, according to one of my neighbors.

I live alone. Is there something I should do to protect myself? Or should I just wait to see what happens?

Frightened by a 14-Year-Old Predator

If what your neighbor said is true, Sally's son has more problems than raging hormones. He also may be a Peeping Tom. Since peeping and prowling can escalate, the police should be notified. It appears that the boy needs help, and his mother is in denial. Do not procrastinate. You must protect yourself.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate