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by Abigail Van Buren

Careful Planning Is Crucial Before Battered Wife Flees

DEAR ABBY: It appears to me that "Living a Nightmare" is ready to leave her abusive husband. The booklet you suggested may be helpful, but she may not have time to wait for its arrival, or her husband may beat her if he discovers it in the mail.

She needs someone to tell her, "Leave NOW; you are ready!" She should decide where to go and what to take with her. She should pack lightly, and take nothing that would reveal her whereabouts. She should enlist the support of a few trustworthy friends and family members, as well as the law. Above all, her plans and her location should NOT be revealed to her husband, for he will resort to extreme violence to try to stop her. You can count on that.

"Living a Nightmare," my prayers are with you. I used to think the only way I'd survive my situation would be if my abuser died. I was wrong. I left, and it was easier than I'd ever imagined. That was 12 years ago. I am now married to a man who treasures my physical and emotional well-being. You deserve the same. -- BEEN THERE IN STOCKTON, CALIF.

DEAR BEEN THERE: The most dangerous time for the victim is when she decides to leave. Her batterer's mental state can run the gamut from disturbed to downright psychotic. It is essential that the victim have a well-thought-out plan of action ready. That is what the booklet I recommended in my column was designed to provide.

Please note that I also said it should be purchased by someone close to the victim, so that it will not be discovered on the premises or in the mail by the batterer.

Many times over the years I have urged battery victims to leave their batterer. However, the decision when to make that move is a very delicate and personal one. The timing cannot be decided "for" someone, no matter how well meaning one is.

DEAR ABBY: My husband stops and picks up the local newspaper every morning from a vending machine on our way to work. The other morning, a girl who appeared to be about 6 was in front of him in line, buying the paper for her mother, who was sitting in the car. The child put the money for one paper in the slot and took TWO newspapers!

My husband said to her, "Oh, is this two-for-one day?" The child did not reply. She just took the two newspapers to her mother.

Abby, this is stealing, pure and simple. I wonder what this mother is going to think when her daughter becomes a teen and gets arrested for shoplifting at the mall? I suppose she'll wonder where her daughter got the idea that it is OK to take something without paying for it.

I hope she reads this and recognizes herself. -- DISGUSTED IN DELMAR, N.Y.

DEAR DISGUSTED: The mother missed an opportunity to teach her child right from wrong. (No wonder many of our newspapers are worried about declining circulation dollars.) If the child took the extra newspaper in error, the mother should have instructed her to put it back. However, if she put the child up to it -- shame on her.

DEAR ABBY: I've heard brides (and mothers of brides) ponder what to do with used wedding dresses. May I tell you what I did?

As the mother of daughters who were often asked to be bridesmaids and were eventually married themselves, I wound up with quite a collection of prom dresses, as well as bridal gowns and attendant dresses.

With my daughters' permission, I called the local Little Theater, and they were thrilled to pick up the gowns to add to their costume wardrobe! I was delighted that they would be useful to someone. In addition, I gained valuable storage space -- so everybody benefited. -- MRS. C.D. DAVIS, SAND SPRINGS, OKLA.

DEAR MRS. DAVIS: For those who are not emotionally attached to their special-occasion gowns, that's an excellent suggestion. I'm sure many readers will be inspired by it.

DEAR READERS: Have a happy, healthy and prosperous 1998. And remember, if you're driving, don't drink; and if you're drinking, don't drive.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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