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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was a victim of domestic abuse by my wife, and I don't feel I have been treated fairly. There are many programs for abused women, but I haven't found any for men. This problem is more common than people realize, but men are embarrassed to say anything. I'd like my voice to be heard to encourage men to speak up.

I did not hit my wife back after she beat on me. I still love her, but I refuse to be abused any longer. Abby, please help me help myself and others. -- BILL IN ARKANSAS

DEAR BILL: Gladly. Among the problems with spousal abuse is that it escalates. Over the last decade domestic violence groups have become more aware of female-to-male domestic violence and violent behavior in same-sex relationships, and are better prepared to offer help than they used to be. That's why it's important you contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The toll-free number is (800) 799-7233. Counselors there offer guidance to women and men who are being abused by their spouse or partner.

Another organization, SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone), also assists victims of abuse regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation. Its website is

DEAR ABBY: Our daughter is divorced with two children. She has been dating a man who has three children. Recently, they decided to move in together. All the children are first grade or younger.

What would be the proper way to handle birthdays?

If my daughter and her boyfriend were married, or even engaged, I wouldn't have a problem sending gifts to his children. But since my husband and I hardly know this man (we live in another state and have met him only once or twice), we're not sure how to handle this. Should we just continue to send birthday gifts to our daughter's kids and nothing but cards to his? Or would that look bad? What's the proper thing? -- FAIR-MINDED IN WEST VIRGINIA

DEAR FAIR-MINDED: Your daughter and grandchildren have formed a household with her boyfriend and his kids. If you're compassionate people, you will treat all of the children equally for as long as the relationship lasts. If they decide to marry, which is a possibility, you will wind up being grandparents to all of them. If they eventually separate, you will have done the right thing and lent some stability and happiness to those children's lives.

DEAR ABBY: For a lot of reasons -- many betrayals among them -- I have almost completely lost my faith in the basic goodness of people. I have started isolating myself because I believe that more contact with people will destroy what little belief I have left. I don't want to be so bitter and cynical, and I need help overcoming this. Any advice would be appreciated. -- WOUNDED SOUL IN MINNESOTA

DEAR WOUNDED: I'm sorry you have suffered disappointment. But isolating yourself from others isn't the solution. I don't know anyone who hasn't been disappointed in someone at some point, but it's not a reason to hide.

Trust is something that has to be developed, and building it takes time. While I agree that relationships can be risky, unless you are willing to take some risk, there will be no reward.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)