DEAR ABBY: I recently had my lover of 11 years arrested for domestic violence. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. He had me isolated and cut off from the world, and without family around, I felt extremely lonely and fragile. Looking back, I see how wanting to be loved and not alone caused me to let so many intolerable things happen.
No one should ever have to be bruised and battered physically, psychologically and verbally by anyone. I pray others read this and will do the right thing -- which is to press charges if necessary and find the strength to leave, as painful as it may be. -- STARTING COUNSELING SOON IN L.A.
DEAR STARTING: I'm glad you found the strength to do that. Counseling will help. Trust me on that. Readers: I haven't printed the warning signs of an abuser in a while, so here they are:
1. PUSHES FOR QUICK INVOLVEMENT: Comes on strong, claiming, "I've never felt loved like this by anyone." An abuser pressures the new partner for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.
2. JEALOUS: Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because "you might meet someone"; checks the mileage on your car.
3. CONTROLLING: If you are late, interrogates you intensively about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.
4. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.
5. ISOLATION: Tries to isolate you from family and friends; accuses people who are your supporters of "causing trouble." The abuser may deprive you of a phone or car, or try to prevent you from holding a job.
6. BLAMES OTHERS FOR PROBLEMS OR MISTAKES: It's always someone else's fault if something goes wrong.
7. MAKES OTHERS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OR HER FEELINGS: The abuser says, "You make me angry" instead of "I am angry," or says, "You're hurting me by not doing what I tell you."
8. HYPERSENSITIVITY: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad. Rants about the injustice of things that are just a part of life.
9. CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN: Kills or punishes animals brutally. Also may expect children to do things that are far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or may tease them until they cry. Sixty-five percent of abusers who beat their partners will also abuse children.
10. "PLAYFUL" USE OF FORCE DURING SEX: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sex; finds the idea of rape exciting.
11. VERBAL ABUSE: Constantly criticizes or says blatantly cruel things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names. This may also involve sleep deprivation, waking you with relentless verbal abuse.
12. RIGID GENDER ROLES: Expects you to serve, obey, remain at home.
13. SUDDEN MOOD SWINGS: Switches from sweet to violent in minutes.
14. PAST BATTERING: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person "made" him (or her) do it.
15. THREATS OF VIOLENCE: Says things like, "I'll break your neck" or "I'll kill you," and then dismisses them with, "Everybody talks that way," or "I didn't really mean it."
Readers, if you feel you are at risk, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or thehotline.org.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)