DEAR ABBY: I have been in a relationship for five years. It started out wonderful, but now I'm having second thoughts. He keeps putting my kids down and telling me I'm a bad mother. It's so bad he has even put a knife to my throat. And, yes, he hits me.
I am not an angel, but I always stand up for him and have his back. However, I don't see him having mine. There's so much more I could say, but I am scared if he knew I was writing to you it would end up bad for me. I need help, but I don't know what to do. He has isolated me from my family and friends. Please help me. -- LOST AND AFRAID IN THE EAST
DEAR LOST: The man you are involved with is a dangerous abuser. What you must do next, for the sake of yourself and your children, is quietly contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233 or visiting thehotline.org for help in formulating a safe escape plan.
It has been some time since I printed the Warning Signs of an Abuser. For anyone who hasn't seen this list, these are classic indicators. Read on:
(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 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 ROLE OF DOMINANCE: Expects you to serve, obey and 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."