DEAR ABBY: I'll make a long story short. I was married to an abusive man I'll call Tony. We had a child together, which I suppose is why I stayed with him for four years. Anyway, we separated, and now I'm in love with his brother, "Joe."
I thought I was so in love with Joe that I let my heart take control. The problem is, he's abusive to me, too. He tried to choke me to death. I want to leave him, but I'm scared because he told me that my husband and his family are trying to take my daughter away from me -- and he says if I leave him he'll make sure they get her.
I'm scared to go to the police because I'm sure I'm going to lose my daughter, and I love her dearly. I can't stand the thought of losing her. I have spoken to Tony about this. He says he would never take my daughter away from me. But I have heard so many things I don't know what to do. I no longer want to be with Joe. I just want to be alone with no headaches. Please help me. -- AFRAID AND CONFUSED IN NEW YORK
DEAR AFRAID: One way abusers control their victims is through fear, and that's what Joe is trying to do with you when he threatens you with losing your child. Because this man can be violent, it's even more important that you get your daughter away from him. Many abusers have no compunction about acting out on a child if they feel provoked.
Pick up the phone and call 1-800-799-7233. It's the toll-free number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They will help you to formulate a safe escape plan for you and your child. I wish you the best of luck.