I commend The Post for its sensitive reporting of Angela Mattson's incest experience {"Daughter Accuses Father of 16 Years' Incest," front page, June 27} and I applaud Angela Mattson for her courage to speak out.

I am an incest survivor. Incest, like rape, is an act of violence used by a family member or extended family member to sexually take advantage of a powerless child. The attack or attacks damage the very core of the child's being.

Because a child cannot conceive of a parent, caretaker, family member or extended family member harming her (him), she (he) always blames herself (himself).

The abuser will go to any lengths to place the blame on the child. Examples of this are: "You're no good." "You wanted it." "It's our secret." "I'm just teaching you the facts of life." "You're too pretty." "Mommy/Daddy loves you." "You're my kid. I can do anything I want to you. I feed you, don't I?" It's very confusing for a child to be talked to in this fashion by an adult.

Terrible as the individual experiences of abuse are, the ultimate tragedy lies in the loss of self. In order to regain the self lost in the innocence of childhood, the incest survivor must employ enormous strength, determination and commitment to pull together the fragmented parts to become the whole person she (he) was before the incest experience.

Intensive prolonged therapy is necessary. Support groups offer guidelines. It takes a lot of work and tears before the survivor realizes that she (he) is truly a good person and always was, particularly as a child.

I'm 45 years old, and now it's finally beginning to be okay for me to be me.