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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Almost a year ago, you published a reader's letter that dramatically spoke to the issues that face battered women: "How do I protect my children and myself while I live with my abuser?" The reader signed herself "Living a Nightmare," and her story, though heart-wrenching, was not unlike thousands of other women's in our nation.

You provided a great service to her, not only with your answer that began, "There is always hope," but also by addressing her need to protect herself. You then offered her, and thousands of others who live in a similar situation, a resource, our booklet, "Striving to Be ... Violence Free: How to Create a Safety Plan."

Because of that letter, Perspectives received more than 10,000 requests from as far away as Guam, the far corners of Canada and even Puerto Rico. We also received hundreds of heartwarming letters from women and men who were living with abuse (or knew someone who was) and were grateful for the help. Amazingly, Abby, we never received one complaint.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. I can't think of a more appropriate time to acknowledge your contribution in assisting women, men and children in their desire to live a violence-free life.

You should take pride in the fact that you were one of the first to recognize that family violence is a societal problem -- one you were not afraid to address no matter how much heat you took in exposing it. For decades you have been the voice for victims who were too afraid to speak for themselves. And you have become the conscience for communities who looked the other way by saying, "It's a family problem."

You are to be commended for your compassion, advocacy and understanding of this very complicated issue. On behalf of the thousands of women and men who received our booklet, and those who struggle with the horror of domestic violence, I thank you. -- JEANNIE SEELEY-SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PERSPECTIVES INC., ST. LOUIS PARK, MINN.

DEAR JEANNIE: Thank you for your touching letter, and for the thrilling news that your booklet was helpful to so many people. The causes for violence are complex, and escaping from a batterer requires careful planning and preparation.

Readers who want a copy of "Striving to Be ... Violence Free" can order it by sending $4 to: Perspectives Inc. (Attn.: Guidebook), 3301 Gorham Ave., St. Louis Park, Minn. 55426. Include your name and address clearly printed on an address label or sheet of paper. Allow two weeks for delivery.

In order to avoid a confrontation with the abuser, the booklet can be sent to the home of a friend or relative. Again, I emphasize how important it is for the victim to have a well-thought-out escape plan before attempting to leave a batterer. Readers, if you know someone who could benefit from this booklet, be a friend and order it for him or her.

DEAR ABBY: There is an old German proverb: "Who speaks ill of others to you will speak ill of you to others." Do you think this is still true? -- BEKKIE IN BENTON HALL

DEAR BEKKIE: Ja. Absolutely!

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, 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. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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