Dear Abby:

Your advice to "Bound and Gagged in Pennsylvania" would have been considered correct in the past. As a retired police captain, I would have given similar advice years ago. However, today, with information gained primarily from carjackings, as well as situations like the armed robbery described in your column, advice has changed.

Too often, victims (particularly children) who permit themselves to be tied up or abducted are assaulted or killed. The robber in the letter from "Bound and Gagged" had permitted the women to see his face. That's a cue that he may not have intended to leave them alive.

Every case is different, but perhaps the woman could have taken the opportunity when the girl struck out to attempt an escape or to raise an alarm. You have to play any incident as you see it, but we no longer advise people to just give in.

Bill P. in Minnesota

Thank you for writing. A number of readers took exception to my answer, and their opinions deserve to be aired. Read on:

Dear Abby:

As a former police officer, I feel you did a disservice in judging the young robbery victim's reaction to the threat as wrong. It seems clear to me that she was acting on her strong instincts of self-preservation. I would be loath to characterize her response as improper. In fact, I think she displayed tremendous courage.

That robber had given neither woman any reason to trust him. There have been numerous instances in which victims were bound and gagged prior to being shot in the back of the head, execution-style, for no other reason than to prevent witnesses.

I would never suggest that anyone fight an armed attacker over mere money. However, when the attacker demands that you trust him with your bound-and-gagged life, I'd say the decision to fight or submit must be left with the person threatened.

Stephanie M., Bremen, Ohio

I bow to your expertise. You have witnessed violence and its aftermath more than I.

Dear Abby:

Remember Flight 93 on 9/11? If the passengers on that plane had taken your advice, the plane would have crashed into either the White House or the Capitol. And remember the shoe bomber? If those passengers had taken your advice, they all would have died. Remember the advice they used to give to women who were about to be raped? "Don't fight back; you might get hurt." Wrong! You usually get hurt anyway, often killed after being tortured.

Bill M., Garrison, Mont.

In the cases you have cited, the choice was clear-cut -- fight or die. Not every situation is this way. How does one know when to take the risk?

Dear Abby:

In the past, I let people harm me because I was told it was "safer" than fighting back. I now know otherwise. One determined woman can easily overpower a man, let alone two determined women! You were correct in terms of encouraging them to take self-defense classes. Many of the students, myself included, have found self-defense training has helped us to become more assertive in many other areas of our lives. I'll leave you with a favorite saying I was taught in self-defense class: It's not the size of the woman in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the woman!

Gisele in Berkeley

I agree that knowledge is power and that includes how to defend oneself. Sadly, although I was raised with the principle that violence is wrong, in instances like this I now realize that it may be necessary to fight for one's life in order to save it.

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