DEAR ABBY: My children and I were living with a maniac who threatened to kill me if I took the kids and ran. We reached out to his family, hoping they would intervene and tell him they knew what he was doing to us. We wanted someone to stand up to him.
His sister said: "I don't want to hear this. I love my brother. I don't want to think about him doing these things, so don't tell me these stories!"
His father said, "What did you do to provoke him?"
His brother and his wife were sympathetic, but said there was nothing they could do.
The last violent episode ended with the children and me locking ourselves in the bathroom while my husband screamed and tried to break the door down for half an hour. When he finally stopped, I called his dad who said, "Do you know what time it is? You woke me up!" He hung up the phone so fast I didn't get to tell him what his son had done to our autistic son.
After getting help from outside sources, we finally felt safe enough to leave. We're now divorced, and my daughter wants nothing to do with her father's side of the family. Her granddad can't figure out why she won't talk to him, and her aunt has no clue why my daughter refuses to visit.
Abby, please urge family members to step up to the plate. Be supportive and ask what you can do to help. Lives could be saved in the process, in more ways than one. -- HEARTBREAK IN THE HEARTLAND
DEAR HEARTBREAK: I'm doing as you requested, but if your husband didn't suffer from severe mental problems, he probably learned his abusive ways from his own father, while his sister grew up in denial about her family's dysfunction, and his brother was trained to feel "helpless."
I'm pleased you were finally able to take control of your lives and get out of there. Now please, teach your daughter a lesson in assertiveness. Tell her she has nothing to gain by remaining silent, and she should tell her grandfather why she no longer talks to him, and her aunt why she no longer wants her in her life. Doing so will make her stronger.