Dear Harlan,

My daughter, who is in her mid-20s, was viciously raped just over a year ago. She was on her way to her car after finishing work. He was a total stranger with a knife, and she never reported it. In fact, she didn’t even tell me for a number of months after it had happened, mostly because she couldn’t bring herself to think or talk about it. Needless to say, this has had a profound effect on her life. She tested positive for an STD after this happened, so then she had to deal with a reminder of this terrible attack. We know that she has to tell guys she dates that she has this, and how it happened, but I don’t feel she needs to tell anyone unless the dating is going to be exclusive and the relationship is going to become intimate. However, she has a friend who thinks she should tell everyone, basically on the first date. I feel that by telling someone right at the beginning, she is dooming any relationship from going any further before she has had a chance to see where it could lead. Who is going to want to start a relationship with someone with this type of affliction if he doesn’t even know, at that point, if he could end up with strong feelings? Who wouldn’t just take the easy way out? So far she has told one person who immediately ended the relationship, and one person who said he saw her beauty within and it didn’t matter to him. What do you think is the right way to go about this? She doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but she still doesn’t want to talk about what happened, and very few people know. How can I help her move on with her life?

Mother in Pain

Dear Mother in Pain,

I’m deeply disturbed by your letter. I hate that this happened to your daughter. I hate that this is part of her story. I can’t comprehend how she is able to move forward with her life as if nothing happened. Something horrible happened. Your daughter doesn’t need advice on when to share her STD while on a date — she needs support, guidance and a rape counselor. She has been through absolute hell. She is not OK. Dating should be the least of her concerns. Until she can face the past, understand how it affected her and process it, she will NEVER be able to explain it to someone in her life. The only intimate relationship she should have is with herself and the people supporting her. Help her find help. Once she can stop and work through the past, she will know how, where and when to move forward and share her secrets. Want to help? Find her help.

For resources and support, contact the RAINN ( hotline: 800-656-HOPE.


Dear Harlan,

Can I be celibate and still be gay? I haven’t had a gay experience, but I believe I’m gay.


Dear Celibate,

If you believe you’re gay, I believe it. You don’t have to act on sexual feelings to define your sexual orientation. There are stories of kids who know they’re gay before puberty. If you think you’re gay, stop being celibate. Conduct a test. Kiss a man. If you want a second kiss or another man, you’ll know the answer.

Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)” (St. Martin’s Press). Write Harlan at [email protected]

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