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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: On Wednesday, April 2, people across the country will observe the National Day of Hope for abused children, part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Its goal is to raise public awareness so that each of us will have the power to help an abused child if we so choose.

On a typical day, three children in the United States will die as a result of child abuse in the home. A report of known or suspected child abuse or neglect will be made to the authorities every 10 seconds. However, most people who witness an actual incident of child abuse will not report it.

We urge everyone: If you see something or hear something -- DO SOMETHING. Suspicion of neglect or abuse is sufficient to make a report.

For information or local reporting numbers, call the Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453), 24 hours a day. All calls are anonymous and confidential.

You can also help by keeping abused children in your thoughts and prayers. Learn the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect so you can recognize the red flags when you see them. For additional ways to participate, visit

Please join us as we share the light of hope for abused children. -- SARA O'MEARA AND YVONNE FEDDERSON, CO-FOUNDERS, CHILDHELP USA

DEAR SARA AND YVONNE: I hope your letter generates the attention it deserves. Children are some of our most vulnerable citizens. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of child abuse:

Physical abuse: unexplained burns, cuts, bruises or welts in the shape of an object; problems in school; fear of adults.

Emotional abuse: apathy; depression; lack of concentration.

Sexual abuse: inappropriate interest or knowledge of sexual acts; overcompliance or excessive aggression; fear of a particular person or family member.

Neglect: unsuitable clothing for weather; extreme hunger; apparent lack of supervision.

I caution readers to be aware that these are only indicators, and if people see them they should check into the situation more thoroughly. One should not immediately jump to conclusions based on one or two general symptoms.

DEAR ABBY: My girlfriend, "Kit," has been living with me for almost four years, and our love for each other is stronger than ever. Kit has asked me to marry her many times, but I always divert her attention or change the subject.

The truth is, I don't believe in marriage and would rather have Kit as my girlfriend for the rest of my life. What scares me is the fact that my last girlfriend dumped me when I leveled with her about how I never want to marry.

Please tell me what to do because I don't want to lose Kit. -- FOREVER SINGLE IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR FOREVER SINGLE: First of all, level with Kit about how you feel and why. While it may seem romantic to have a girlfriend forever, mature people want to take care of those they love. There are legal protections and benefits for spouses that single people do not enjoy. Your lawyer can explain them to you. As things stand, if something were to happen to you, Kit would be left with nothing but memories. Is that what you want?

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