DEAR ABBY: I am a 21-year-old female college student who no longer lives at home. While visiting my family recently, I learned that my 17-year-old sister, "Jody," has been sleeping around during the past year. One of her friends let it slip. Jody doesn't know that I know. I am worried that she doesn't realize that her life is in jeopardy if she keeps this up.
Should I tell my parents? Or do you think I should try to talk to Jody instead? -- WORRIED SIS IN TAMPA
DEAR WORRIED: You and Jody are overdue for a sisterly chat. Telling your parents is guaranteed to cause a family crisis, and that would be counterproductive.
Your sister will be 18 in a year. She needs to fully understand that being sexually active requires responsible behavior. Sexually active women need to be under the care of a gynecologist. They also need to be knowledgeable about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and birth control. Please don't wait.
DEAR ABBY: My best friend, "Tammy," and her husband, "Barry," are separated. I am close to both of them and have tried my best to remain neutral. However, Barry keeps calling and asking me what Tammy says about him -- but says I shouldn't tell her he's asking. I feel stuck in the middle.
Barry went out with my boyfriend and me recently, and announced that he has always had a crush on me -- then he asked me if I would leave town with him. My boyfriend got furious. I tried to blame it on the fact that Barry was intoxicated, but the next morning he phoned and said he meant every word.
Should I tell Tammy and cause her more pain, or should I try to "forget" that Barry came on to me? -- JOAN IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR JOAN: Tell Tammy that Barry is having a rough time with their separation, and quote chapter and verse. She is your best friend and she needs to know.
Barry is a mess right now. He needs emotional support, but you are not the person from whom he should get it. He needs a therapist. Be a friend and tell him so.
DEAR ABBY: Does a parent have the right to literally slap you in the face? I am in my 40s, and for the past year, when my mom doesn't agree with my opinion, she will slap me in the face.
My family is aware of what's happening, but others are afraid to step in for fear of what she'll do to them. Mom was a bully as a child, and because I am not an aggressive person, she has always intimidated me. When I try to stand up for myself, she laughs and humiliates me.
My mother's attacks are destroying me. I don't know how to handle them. I haven't confided in anyone because I am so ashamed.
Do I have the right to defend myself against my mother? -- TIRED OF BEING SLAPPED
DEAR TIRED: Yes, you do, but not physically. Not only is your mother violent, but she is also emotionally sadistic. Since this is new behavior, her doctor needs to be alerted so she can be evaluated. Professional counseling can help you gain the strength you need to end her emotional domination. It appears to be long overdue.
It's also important that your family not be subjected to more of this for fear they will think your mother's behavior is normal. You -- and they -- have a right to be respected.
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