Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Mementos of Wife's Affair May Make Her Marriage a Memory

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for all the letters you are printing about abuse. Your recent letter from Michael Groetsch in Kenner, La., about "serial batterers" really got my attention.

I was in an abusive marriage for 34 years, and I know what breeds abuse -- it's silence. Abby, I'm not silent anymore. I now work for a women's crisis center, and I was recently asked by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to tell my story. I was on a victim impact panel for a sensitivity training seminar for law enforcement. I have since been asked to speak at other meetings and plan to do so.

On the door to our office hangs a sign. It says, "There's no excuse for abuse." Those few words say quite a lot. Keep up the great work, Abby. There should be more out there like you. -- KAREN IN VICTORIA, TEXAS

DEAR KAREN: You are to be commended for your activism in helping other abused women.

I would like to correct a statement I made in my answer to Michael Groetsch: I stated that the majority of domestic abuse comes at the hands of men who are "unable to control their anger -- not psychopaths," and I added that these people can be helped through therapy and anger management programs. I regret to say that I may have spoken too optimistically.

In his book, "He Promised He'd Stop" (C.P.I., 1997, $14.95), Mr. Groetsch points out that a batterer who is motivated to change and feels remorse can be helped. But a serial batterer is generally cold, detached, and does not possess a conscience. Professionals report that therapy with a serial batterer is rarely, if ever, successful. While the habitual offender may enter a treatment program (often court-ordered), he rarely completes it. He generally enters counseling only to manipulate his partner into dropping criminal charges and returning to him. The safest recourse for victims of chronic abuse is to end the relationship, once a comprehensive support system and personal safety plan have been established.