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by Abigail Van Buren

Story of Long Ago Abuse Causes Family New Pain

DEAR ABBY: My parents divorced when I was 6, and my father remarried when I was 8. My father got custody of my brother and me. A year later, my half-sister was born and that's when my stepmother began physically and mentally abusing me.

My brother told family members about the abuse, but nothing was done. My father didn't believe us kids. The abuse finally ended when my grandparents -- my mother's parents -- saw the marks on my body and took me to an attorney. My mother got custody of me when I was 12.

My half-sister, "Liz," was only 4 when I left, so we were never close growing up. I'm now in my early 40s. Last summer, while I was visiting family, I went shopping with Liz and her daughter. Tired of all the secrets, I told her the reason I left when she was little. It came as a shock to her because her mother had never abused her.

Now my father and brother are mad at me for telling. My brother even told Liz it wasn't true to "protect" her. Was I wrong for disclosing something that happened long ago? The memories are still fresh after all these years, and doesn't it send a message to protect the abuser? -- TIRED OF SECRETS, CORONA, CALIF.

DEAR TIRED OF SECRETS: What your stepmother did was disgraceful, but you were wrong to try to exact revenge through her daughter. All it could do was cause your half-sister pain. As to your brother accusing you of lying after having revealed the truth -- that was wrong, too, because it victimized you twice.

DEAR ABBY: I am 25, and have been in a relationship with a wonderful man I'll call "Tom" for a year. Tom is attentive, caring, funny, self-sufficient and comes from a great family. In short, he's everything a woman says she wants.

So why do I still constantly look at other men? I always worry that there's someone better-suited to me and that I'm just settling. Tom is definitely the best man I've ever met, and he would make a wonderful husband and father one day. So, how do I learn to appreciate what I have instead of always seeking something better, which very well may not exist? -- WANDERING EYE IN BUFFALO, N.Y.

DEAR WANDERING EYE: Tom may be everything a woman says she wants, but your intuition may be telling you that he isn't what YOU want. Ask yourself what quality Tom is lacking that causes you to constantly look at other men with an eye to trading up, because until you figure that out, you will never be satisfied.

DEAR ABBY: I am a single woman who has recently started a career in local government. In my position, I am often invited to functions with federal, state and local officials. On more than one occasion, "royalty" has attended as well.

At these events, I am often introduced to officials or dignitaries after I am already seated. Should I stand when introduced as the men do, or as a lady, should I remain seated? I have watched other women, including a few old "pros," and the results are split. Can you please tell me what is proper and respectful in these situations? -- PROTOCOL-CHALLENGED IN INDIANA

DEAR PROTOCOL-CHALLENGED: Standing when introduced is considered a sign of respect, so when in doubt, stand up.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)