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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 16-year-old girl and desperate for advice. My parents' fighting has gotten out of control lately. It got so bad one evening that my mom, my sisters and I had to leave for the night.

I should also mention that my dad is abusive, so I fear for my life when I'm getting yelled at by him. I do not feel safe living with him near me. Call me crazy, but I can't trust my own dad. He has hurt my mom, my sisters and me so badly that I have begun to cut myself trying to heal the pain, but it only makes things worse.

I have tried talking to friends or a counselor, but I didn't like it. I am independent. I like doing things for myself. I am not comfortable talking about my feelings. What can I do to protect my family? -- TRYING TO COPE IN MINNESOTA

DEAR TRYING TO COPE: As much as you might wish to, there is nothing you can do to protect your family from an abusive bully. That is your mother's job. Because it appears she is unable to calm your father or successfully assert herself, the person you must protect is yourself.

Because your father sometimes becomes violent, suggest to your mother that she contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Their toll-free phone number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The counselors can help her assess whether she needs to get you all out of there to ensure your safety.

While I respect your desire to be independent, please understand that some problems need to be discussed with a licensed professional in order to be resolved. Cutting to relieve depression is one of them. That is why it is extremely important that you make the effort to talk to a counselor at school if one is provided, because it may take professional help for you to stop self-injuring.

DEAR ABBY: My husband recently caught a cold, and he has been coughing badly. Other than the cough, he is in good shape and not feverish.

Last night his coughing woke me up three times. The first time, I went back to sleep. The second time, I asked him to sleep somewhere else so he wouldn't wake me up, and the third time, I got up and slept on the couch.

We disagree on who should have left the room. He says he was sick, so he was right to stay in bed. I say he was the one who couldn't sleep and, therefore, he should've left the room. I know when I can't sleep, I usually leave the room so I won't disturb him.

Abby, we have a 20-month-old son who regularly wakes me up at night, and I'm usually the one who gets up for him. I get less than six hours' sleep a night -- and that's when my son sleeps well. I think my husband was selfish in disturbing my sleep when he could have left the room and returned to bed when his cough subsided. Am I wrong? -- SLEEPLESS IN MONTREAL

DEAR SLEEPLESS: Coughing is a reflex, and your husband may not have been able to stifle or control it. Rather than arguing about this, my advice to you is to arrange to sleep in another room until he's over the cough. That way you can get the sleep you need.

P.S. A bad cough is nothing to sneeze at.

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