Getting Past Tragedy

Congratulations on your feature article on incest {Cover Story, Sept. 1}. It is a relief to mental health providers when forums for public education, including the press, choose to address an issue of such magnitude and such pervasiveness.

Judith Herman, MD, author of "Father, Daughter Incest" (Harvard University Press, 1981), states that one in three girls are the victims of sexual abuse and 5 percent of this number are abused by their own fathers and stepfathers.

The poignant and heart-rending self disclosure by Lana Lawrence is quite like the experiences of some 63 other adult women, members of nine professionally led therapy groups for incest victims at the Women's Center of Northern Virginia.

Readers of The Washington Post should be made aware of local resources, especially the center's VOICE (Victims of Incest, Counseling and Education) program, which for eight years has been offering immediate and affordable help. Inquiries are handled by phone at (703) 281-2657. Judith O. Mueller Executive Director, The Women's Center of Northern Virginia Vienna

The recovery of Cecilia Cichan's doll -- whole and presentable -- from the wreckage of the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 is almost as wonderful, in its way, as the survival of the little girl herself. When her aunt gave the doll to her, Cecilia "smiled and seemed comforted," according to the account in the paper.

Experts write that a beloved doll (bear, blanket, etc.) is actually a "transitional object" that represents the mother-when-she-is-absent. A child can withstand being separated from the warmth and comfort of the mother (or mothering person) by hugging close the object for solace. This soothes and reminds the child that all can be well. The fact that Cecilia chose this particular doll to take on her trip shows how she values it.

It seems that Cecilia, who has such an obviously fine and fond extended family, and now also has her doll, will have a good chance to live on in continuity with her early life. Imogene Gorman Kensington

Confronting Crohn's Disease

Thank you for printing "When Normal Is Just a Word" by Deborah Schwartz {Lifeline, Aug. 4}. We would like to commend Ms. Schwartz and Marvin Bush for their willingness to share their experiences with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Learning to accept and cope with IBD is undoubtedly a difficult task; Ms. Schwartz and Mr. Bush describe very well the process of coming to terms with a chronic, life-altering disease. This article is informative and helpful to others who suffer from Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Patients with these often misunderstood diseases need to know that there are others with the same problems and that the National Foundation for Ileitis and Colitis offers support groups and other resources for persons interested in these conditions. Robert Hardi, MD Chairman, Chapter Scientific Advisory Committee Amy Berkeley Chapter President National Foundation for Ileitis and Colitis Arlington

Noses and Self-Image

As a physician whose primary surgical specialty is cosmetic facial plastic surgery, I found your recent article "In Pursuit of the Perfect Nose" informative yet somewhat misleading. The psychological impact of altering one's nose or face is truly formidable, and in the vast majority of patients the benefits far outweigh the potential risks. This can be seen most clearly in the teen-age population (both male and female), where a high percentage of rhinoplasty surgery is done. A facial feature that can be altered in a course of an hour can enhance a patient's self-image and self-esteem for the rest of his or her life. Although rhinoplasty is by far the most challenging form of aesthetic surgery, it is this group of patients who are usually the most pleased with their results. Jeffrey N. Hausfeld, MD Washington

Understanding Diabetes

My gratitude to The Washington Post for the many educational and encouraging articles published on juvenile diabetes. I particularly refer to the submission by Dr. Harvey Rich {Lifeline, Aug. 25}. I, too, have a child who attended Camp Glyndon, and I share the same feelings, fears and hopes that Dr. Rich so eloquently describes. Public awareness is surely a most important step toward an ultimate cure for this devastating disease. Anne Duncan Reston

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