Stepfather mentally abusing children

Dear Annie: My best friend, “Jayne,” is also my former sister-in-law. She and my brother divorced several years ago.

Dear Annie: My best friend, “Jayne,” is also my former sister-in-law. She and my brother divorced several years ago.

My brother has limited contact with their children, but I have remained close to all of them.

A few years ago, Jayne remarried. Lately, I have noticed my oldest niece has become withdrawn. She finally told me that she and her siblings are miserable. Their stepfather beats, criticizes and berates them.

She said her mother stands by and does nothing. I don’t believe they are being sexually abused, but I am furious at the mental and physical abuse they are enduring.

I worry that if I say anything to Jayne it will only make matters worse for the children. I also fear her husband will convince her not to allow me to see the kids, and I don’t know how I would bear that. Please help. — Just the Aunt

Dear Aunt: Those children are lucky to have you in their corner. Contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (childhelp.org) at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) today. All calls are anonymous and confidential and will be investigated by a professional.

Meanwhile, stay close to Jayne not only to keep an eye on those kids, but to be a source of support if and when she needs you.

Dear Annie: My husband and I live near a cemetery. Despite the fact that we have doggie parks and a citywide leash law, people like to use the cemetery to let their dogs run. Animal control will leave a notice at the offender’s home if you know the address, but otherwise cannot do anything unless they catch them in the act.

I have relatives buried in that cemetery and resent the idea of dogs leaving their deposits on gravesites. I have a dog, but never let it loose like that. Also, I was once nearly attacked by a pit bull while absorbing the peace and quiet cemeteries provide. I have reminded people of the law, but that piece of information is not received well. Now I no longer walk in the cemetery except to visit my relatives’ graves.

I don’t understand the “I’m above the law” attitude these people have. It does not make for good neighbors. Leash laws in the cemetery allow respect for others, including those who have passed on. — Frustrated in Illinois

Dear Frustrated: Surprisingly, some people consider cemeteries to be large parks and the graves are incidental. But as in any public area, dog droppings should be cleaned up by the owners. Does the cemetery have a policy on allowing animals on the grounds? Is there a caretaker? If so, enlist his or her help in keeping the area respectfully maintained.

Dear Annie: “Remember Back When in Warren, Ohio” objected to pregnant women showing their bellies. You have got to be kidding with your response that “the pregnant body is nothing to be ashamed of or hidden.”

The rest of us don’t want to look at naked bodies. Appropriate apparel should always be worn in public. Do you appreciate when an obese person wears spandex? When someone who looks anorexic sports a halter top and short shorts? If a man with a beer belly and hairy chest goes without a shirt? A young child in a pool naked? If the body is nothing to be ashamed of, why don’t we just live in one big nudist colony?

These are all normal bodies, but that doesn’t mean we should have to look at what should be saved for their significant others. Sometimes leaving something to the imagination can be a good thing. — Tired of Explaining It to My Young Son

Dear Tired: “Warren’s” main objection was pregnant women who wear tight clothing. You’ve added those who are obese, anorexic and hairy, and naked toddlers. We agree that people should dress appropriately when in public, but we are not going to get bent out of shape with people who don’t live up to your beauty standards. Get real.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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