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

by Abigail Van Buren

Suggestion of Sex Cools Longtime Warm Friendship

DEAR ABBY: In a response to a recent letter you stated that you had received more than 100 requests to print the 15 warning signs of an abusive partner. Those warning signs are an excellent indicator of someone who is abusive. Anyone in a relationship with such a person would be more than justified in leaving.

What I find interesting, however, is that nobody has given any advice to children who are also the victims of such an abuser. While adults can sever a relationship with an abuser by leaving, a child cannot. The children usually rely on the abuser for the material necessities like food, clothing and shelter -- and this often gives the abuser even more control over the children.

I would like to know what advice you and your readers have for children who are suffering in such a relationship. I would also like to hear from adults who survived such an abuser. How did they do it? -- CONCERNED IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR CONCERNED: Many children feel intimidated by -- or protective of -- their abuser and don't speak up. When I hear from children who are being abused, I urge them to confide in a trusted adult. Teachers, counselors, school nurses, coaches, doctors, psychologists, social workers and, in many cases, clergypersons are mandated by law in most states to report suspected child abuse and neglect to child protection agencies, which will investigate and make an appropriate intervention.