DEAR ABBY: "Larry" and I married five years ago after a whirlwind, passionate courtship. He said I was his dream come true.
As I think back on those words, I become ill. Why? Because from the day we married, my life became a living nightmare. It began on our honeymoon. I talked to another man, and Larry got so angry he slammed my face into the wall and broke my nose. I should have left then, but I believed him when he said how sorry he was -- that it had been an accident and would never happen again. Besides, my parents had just paid for our wedding, and I was too ashamed to tell them what had happened.
Over the last five years, Larry has broken my wrist by throwing me down the stairs. He broke my shoulder when he pushed me out of a moving car, and he has beaten me so badly I've had to hide in the house for days to keep the people I know from seeing the bruises. I am ashamed to tell anyone. He keeps saying he is sorry and promises it won't happen again ... but it does.
We have two children. We would have had three, but Larry kicked me in the stomach when I was four months pregnant and I had a miscarriage. Maybe it was a blessing because our children have a terrible life. They're scared to death of him. I am desperate to leave, but I, too, am scared. When I tell him I want a divorce, he threatens to kill me. Is there any hope? -- LIVING A NIGHTMARE
DEAR LIVING: There is always hope. Reaching out for help is the first step, and by writing to me, you have taken that step.
It is reported that more than 4,000 women are murdered each year by their abusers. Battered women's advocates tell me that the most dangerous time for a battered woman is when she decides to leave. Statistics show that a woman who leaves her batterer is far more likely to be killed than those who stay. This is not intended to discourage leaving, however, but to emphasize the importance of a clearly conceived escape plan. Most women CAN leave safely with careful planning.
Your first step is to create a safety plan for you and your children while you are still living with Larry. If you decide to leave, this plan should also be designed so that he cannot find you.
I recently received a 50-page booklet called "Striving to Be Violence Free ... A Guidebook for Creating a Safety Plan." It is written and published by an award-winning, nonprofit agency called Perspectives Inc., in St. Louis Park, Minn.
It contains several checklists that will help you explore your options and make sound choices. Especially useful would be the chapter that addresses "creating a safety plan." This section will help you prepare for the next violent outburst; and sadly, there is always a "next time." Unfortunately, over time the violence usually becomes more frequent and severe.
Readers, if you know someone who could benefit from this guidebook, be a friend and buy it for her. (Consider having it sent to your own house to avoid a confrontation with the abuser.)
For parents, this booklet has important information for your daughters -- a section called "Warning Signs of a Potential Batterer," which is designed to help a woman examine a man's behavior BEFORE she makes a commitment to him.
To order this guidebook, send $4 to: Perspectives Inc., 3381 Gorham Ave., St. Louis Park, Minn. 55426 (Attn: Guidebook). Include your name and address clearly printed on an address label, 3-by-5 card or a sheet of paper. Allow four to five weeks for delivery.