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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: It hurts to be criticized for not having left an abusive mate after the first time the abuse occurred.

You consistently advise your readers to seek help from their minister, priest or rabbi. It is my sincere hope that the counselors in the church are more enlightened today than the one my ex-husband and I saw in the late 1960s.

After taking considerable physical abuse from my husband, I threatened to leave him unless he sought counseling with me. He finally agreed, and we went together to our clergyman. After I described the many episodes of brutal beatings that put me in the hospital, my minister reminded me that the Bible said, "Turn the other cheek."

Abby, this minister had one of the largest congregations in this country. Of course, my husband continued to beat me, thinking it was his right as the head of the household, and I was convinced that the church knew best. Thank God, I finally came to my senses and divorced the bully. -- NO NAME OR TOWN, PLEASE

DEAR NO NAME: Obviously, you no longer subscribe to the biblical injunction to "turn the other cheek." There is hardly a passage in the Old or New Testament that hasn't been interpreted in more ways than one.

I would never advise turning the other cheek if the first one was black and blue. Nor would MOST clergy in the 1990s.

DEAR ABBY: The enclosed appeared in the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune's editorial section titled "Voice of the People." It was good for a chuckle in the newsroom; perhaps your readers also might find it amusing. It was submitted by James R. Inwood of South Bend. -- KAREN MURPHY, INDIANAPOLIS STAR

DEAR KAREN: This exchange of letters typifies the particularly subtle form of communication that parents and children often share:

DEAR DAD: Thing$ are pretty good here at $chool, but they could be better. $ome thing$ are needed mo$t de$perately. I hope you can gue$$ what I mean and $end $ome $oon. -- Your loving $on

DEAR SON: NOthing is new here. I kNOw that you are doing better NOw than you have been. Write aNOther letter soon. I want to get this off in the NOon mail, so I'll sign off NOw. -- Love, Dad

CONFIDENTIAL TO LOST AND HELPLESS, THE 14-YEAR-OLD GIRL WHO WROTE FROM TORONTO, CANADA: You have done nothing wrong, so, please, do not be embarrassed to tell your parents -- or a school nurse! Your brother needs help immediately, or he may become a full-fledged child molester. You did not give me your name or address or I would return the money you sent. I cannot accept it. My advice is free. Please write again.

Everything you'll need to know about planning a wedding can be found in Abby's booklet, "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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