DEAR ABBY: You printed a column from stepchildren in loveless homes. Both letters were signed, "No Name, No Address, No Phone." I hope you'll convey this message to the teen-ager in high school:
Please remember that in three years you'll be graduating and be able to start a new and independent life. Despite your surroundings, make every effort to make these important years count.
Wake up each morning, make your bed, and get yourself out of there so you can focus on your future. Take refuge at the library and at school. Work toward a scholarship. Prove your parents and stepparents wrong by becoming a shining example for your younger sister and brother. YOU CAN DO IT!
Many adults in this world want to see young people succeed and fulfill their potential. Talk with your teachers, coaches, counselors, ministers and the parents of friends. Reach out, and you'll find the support you need to get through this difficult time.
You deserve a life filled with love and support. I'm sending a big hug for you and your siblings. -– TWIN CITIES MOM AND TEACHER
DEAR MOM AND TEACHER: Your letter will have meaning for far more young people than the two whose letters appeared in my column. I'm sad to say that nearly 20 percent of the letters I receive involve physical or emotional abuse. For a civilized society, that's appalling. Please read on:
DEAR ABBY: Seventeen years of my life were spent being kicked, punched and beaten. I was choked, shamed, told I was worthless, starved, berated -– you name it.
My relatives saw what was happening, but my mother would tell them I was such a terrible child I deserved worse than I was getting. If someone had just once asked me what was going on, I would have gladly told them. But I wasn't allowed to speak to anyone unless Mother said it was OK.
Children should feel safe in their own homes. Unfortunately, abuse goes on right under people's noses. I'm willing to bet that many people reading this know someone who is being abused, but the person is too embarrassed to admit it. Victims are made to carry the guilt of the abuser, so they become masters at hiding it. I was told I was so bad no one would believe me. I was too afraid to confide in my teachers or friends for fear of retribution. I had been warned that if I ever told, I would be beaten beyond recognition.
By the way, if you're wondering where my father was during all this, he was right there -– watching. He was as afraid of my mother as I was.
I finally moved out at the age of 17. Mother always said if I didn't like the way she treated me, I could leave any time. I think she was more surprised than anyone else when she saw me packing my belongings. Within an hour I was gone.
To this day, every interaction I have with her is painful. She denies everything, even though many of my relatives have told her they witnessed her abuse. While I have moved on, she is depressed and talks about suicide. I will accept no responsibility for her depression. She should have gotten her act together a long time ago. -– SURVIVOR
DEAR SURVIVOR: In your case, that's healthy thinking. You have suffered enough for a lifetime. Your abusive mother could outlive you. Let your "loving family" deal with her. Keep your distance and do not allow yourself to be manipulated.