Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am a 13-year-old girl, soon to graduate from elementary school. Please don't judge me by my age because I have an important question.

Recently, I picked up the newspaper, glanced at the front page and an article caught my eye. It was about a disabled man who had been kidnapped and taken to an apartment where he was beaten. It was one of the most disgusting things I have ever read.

Not long after that, I saw another article. This time it was about a mentally challenged man who was lured from his bus stop to a deserted street, then beaten and robbed. Knowing these things happen makes me sad, angry and turns my stomach.

I want to do something to help stop these acts of violence, but I don't know what. Joining a group or donating doesn't seem to be enough. I would like to help the disabled directly. Do you have any ideas?

— CARES DEEPLY IN ONTARIO, CANADA

DEAR CARES DEEPLY: You are a sensitive, right-minded young lady, and for that I commend you. I do have some ideas you might find interesting. You could:

1. Collect gently used children's clothing and donate the garments to a homeless shelter.

2. Volunteer some time each month to befriend a developmentally disabled child. The special education department at your school might be able to help you with this.

3. Collect signatures for a petition to increase the penalties for those who commit crimes against mentally ill and homeless people. Talk about your feelings at school and at your place of worship and see if friends would be interested in joining you in your efforts. Remember, one small spark can start a prairie fire.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 31-year-old man. I have been seeing a wonderful woman for about seven months, and it's starting to get serious. I need advice, though, on how much we should tell each other about our sexual histories.

Seven years ago, the end of a romantic relationship sent me into a deep depression. I spiraled downward for a long time, during which I engaged the services of prostitutes. Finally, with the help of my family and a therapist, I was able to take medication and recover from the depression. I was later tested for STDs and was lucky not to have contracted any.

I am not implying that I'm not responsible for what I did at the time. I'm ashamed of the situations in which I placed myself. Abby, should I tell my girlfriend about this at some point as our relationship progresses, possibly toward marriage? If so, how much detail should I give her? I don't want to start a life with her based on lies.

— WANTS TO MAKE PEACE WITH THE PAST IN WISCONSIN

DEAR WANTS TO MAKE PEACE: Let me ask you this — how much detail do you want HER to give YOU? From my perspective, if you are considering marrying this woman, it is more important for her to know about your history of depression than that you turned to "professionals" for more than advice. You are STD-free and are no longer interested in pay-as-you-go flings.

If you are asked to name names — which I doubt you will be — tell the lady that there have been episodes in your life that you "are not proud of." If that's not enough information for her, then tell her the truth and let her deal with 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, CA 90069.