Breaking cycle of abuse starts with our youth

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DEAR ABBY: Your recent letters regarding domestic violence bring important attention to the dangers of this problem. Unfortunately, every year thousands of Americans lose loved ones to this terrible epidemic, and most are left wondering what they could have done to prevent it.

Too often we assume that violence happens only to other people people of a different race or culture, people who live in a different community, or people in a different type of relationship. But domestic violence does not discriminate. It can touch everyone through friends, co-workers and family members who are suffering silently without our even knowing it. Many of us also know abusers people who may seem charming and likable on the surface but cause fear, self-doubt, pain, even death, to those they claim to love.

Recent studies show that as many as one-third of teens experience abuse in a dating relationship. And, more than half of teens say they know friends who have been physically, sexually or verbally abused. The need for early intervention to change these shocking statistics is clear.

We must reach out to youth and talk openly and often about these issues so we can help them to avoid the terrible sorrow felt by families and others who are victims of abuse. Each of us has the right to a safe and healthy relationship free from violence, coercion and fear.

JESSICA ARONOFF,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,

BREAK THE CYCLE

DEAR JESSICA: Thank you for an important letter. I hope it grabs the attention it deserves from teens and their parents. Your statement that as many as one-third of teenagers experience abuse in a dating relationship, and more than half of them have friends who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused, will shock many people, I am sure.

Readers, Break the Cycle provides domestic violence education, information and help to students ages 12 to 24 throughout the country. It teaches what healthy relationships are and helps them to recognize the warning signs of abuse. Break the Cycle lets them know that help is available if they are suffering or in danger, and shows them that they deserve safe, supportive, non-violent relationships.

There are opportunities for interested people to help in this endeavor. To find out more about this worthwhile program, log onto www.breakthecycle.org, or call toll-free at 1-888-988-8336 (TEEN). I have supported Break the Cycle in the past, and continue to do so, because the earlier young people learn to differentiate between healthy relationships and obsessive, destructive ones, the healthier our society will be.

DEAR ABBY: I am confused about my sexual orientation. I am an 18-year-old girl. Although I encounter a lot of attractive guys at work, I dont find myself attracted to any of them. I do think that they are handsome, but I never, ever get that butterflies in the stomach feeling that my friends describe to me. At the same time, I am pretty sure I am not a lesbian.

Is there something wrong with me? Could I be asexual? Is there any way this can be diagnosed?

CONFUSED IN NEVADA

DEAR CONFUSED: I hate to see you diagnose and label yourself. It is possible that you have simply not met the right person yet. Real life is not the way its presented in movies and music videos, where the hero and heroine are struck by lightning and carried away at first encounter. Give it one more year, and if you still feel there is something missing, discuss it with your doctor. Sexuality is a matter of degree, and no two people are exactly alike.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order How to Be Popular. Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.) Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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