DEAR ABBY: I have been married to "Ron" for 11 years. Throughout our marriage he has been unfaithful. We have three children under age 12. I work a minimum-wage job and have no family, nowhere to go, and no one to turn to.
A few months ago, Ron brought home a sexually transmitted disease, which he gave to me. I feel trapped, alone and terribly depressed. I realize the children must be sensing my tension and pain. As Ron is not physically abusive, I cannot go to a shelter, and this has taken a toll on my health and well-being.
Should I stay until I'm financially able to leave? Or should I flee now and hope for the best? -- LONELY AND SAD IN LOUISIANA
DEAR LONELY AND SAD: If you haven't already done so, contact your physician and be treated for the STD. Make a list of Ron's assets, as well as his Social Security, driver's license and bank account numbers. Next, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233. Although there may not be room for you at a shelter, they can help you formulate an "escape plan." Once that's in place, consult an attorney who specializes in family law. You've suffered enough.
DEAR ABBY: My 19-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver. Garrett was hit at freeway speed as he got out of a disabled vehicle that had been blocked by a flatbed tow truck with its lights flashing.
The drunk driver went around the tow truck and never slowed down. He already had a prior DUI from seven years ago. From my research, the laws are too easy on these people. Offenders are getting five years, often reduced to one or two or community service, for taking an innocent life. The vehicle is their weapon. This should be second-degree murder, not manslaughter.
How can we get the laws changed? Whom do we contact to get results? It won't bring my wonderful, loving son back, but these verdicts are nothing but a slap on the wrist to the drunk drivers, and a slap in the face to families who lose their children. My son was my best friend. He had his whole life ahead of him. This man took it away because he made the choice to drink and drive. Please, Abby, help me make a difference. -- GRIEVING MOTHER, SANTA ROSA, CALIF.
DEAR GRIEVING MOTHER: I offer my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your son. One way to channel your grief would be to join a community of other grieving parents who are also determined to put more teeth into the punishment meted out to repeat offenders.
I recently became a member of the advisory board of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It is a non-profit, grassroots organization that's a leader in the fight against drunk driving and underage drinking. Because of MADD, more than 2,300 anti-drunk driving laws have been passed, public awareness has increased, and thousands of drunk-driving victims have received assistance. With their help, you can work within your own community to change the laws regarding repeat offenders in your state. The toll-free number is (800) 438-6233, and the Web site is www.MADD.org. Call and you will receive the support you need.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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