DEAR ABBY: When I was 15, I was raped by a family friend. I did what I thought was the right thing to do and told my parents. The man was arrested, and DNA tests proved everything. Charges were pressed.

I thought everything was going to be OK, but a few days before the court proceedings were to begin, my rapist killed himself. Now his family harasses my family. They claim he was innocent and I was bent on ruining his life.

Abby, people often ask me if I am “relieved” that he committed suicide. I feel terrible about it, and I don’t know how to respond to these comments. – BLAMING MYSELF OUT WEST

DEAR BLAMING YOURSELF: When someone commits suicide, it is not unusual for the survivors to feel – among other things – overwhelming guilt. You did the right thing by telling your parents about the assault. Your family did the right thing in pressing charges. Obviously your rapist was very disturbed, and you are in no way responsible for his death. The police should be notified about the harassment from his family.

When someone asks if you are “relieved” that the rapist is dead, you are not obliged to answer. You can let the question hang in the air, or turn it back on the person by asking, “How would you feel?” and let him or her ramble on. I hope you received psychological counseling after you were raped, because it should have helped you to recognize that you are not responsible for anything that has happened. However, because you are blaming yourself, it’s time to schedule a few sessions with a therapist.

DEAR ABBY: I am 23 and being married in the fall. I couldn’t be more excited. I have started shopping for a wedding dress, and I would like to wear a pure white one on my special day. However, I am not a virgin, and I know the original significance of brides wearing white was to declare their virginity.

Is this still true today, or is it not so important anymore? I don’t want to offend anyone. (I think most of the guests we will be inviting know my fiance and I live together, so they can assume that I am not a virgin.) I could always wear an ivory dress, but I would really prefer a white one. What do you think? – WONDERING IN WASHINGTON

If your dream dress is white, then that’s what you should wear.

According to Emily Post: “During the 20th century, white came to signify joy rather than virginity (though traditionalists may hold to the older symbolism) and is now considered appropriate for all brides, including those marrying again and those who are pregnant at the time of the wedding.”

DEAR ABBY: I ride the bus to and from work every day, and I have had it “up to here” with people who conduct loud conversations on their cell phones. I have learned far more than I ever wanted to about medical problems, restraining orders, relationships that are falling apart, etc. I would love to make eye contact and give them “the look,” but these folks are too absorbed in what they are saying to even glance in my direction. What surprises me most is that the average age of a lot of them is in their 40s. I’m in my early 20s, but I know that not only is their behavior rude, but that sharing personal information with a group of strangers is potentially dangerous.

Can you suggest a way to deal with this problem without having to wear earplugs? – MINNEAPOLIS COMMUTER

DEAR MINNEAPOLIS COMMUTER: Yes, get up and move your seat.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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