Ghosts, goblins, witches, and vampires are not the only specters that will haunt us this October. The month has been designated as a reminder of one of the tragedies that befall modern families: October is Family Violence Month.

It's not a month to commit family violence. It's a month to recognize the terrible proportions of the problem and, perhaps, come up with some solutions to combat it.The national statistics on domestic violence are staggering.

And, while a breakdown for the state of Utah is not readily available, experts say there is no reason to believe Utah lies much outside the pattern of the rest of the nation on this issue.

Consider this: According to the "Domestic Violence Fact Sheet," half the couples in America have experienced violence in an intimate relationship.

One-quarter are estimated to be in violent relationships (meaning the violence is not an isolated incident, but occurs more than once over a period of time).

Battering is the major cause of injury to women, exceeding rapes, muggings, and even auto accidents, according to William French Smith, the former U.S. Attorney General.

A woman is battered every 18 seconds somewhere in the United States. If you add incidents of child-battering or even husband-battering, the number would be almost incomprehensible.

Battering, by definition, can run the gamut from threatening verbal abuse, slapping, kicking, punching and throwing someone around to knifing them. Injuries may be minor, serious or even fatal.

Battered women who have survived have suffered broken ribs, concussions, permanent brain damage, hearing loss, and miscarriages as a result of beatings.

In three-quarters of the reported assaults, the victim was divorced or separated at the time of incident, according to the Department of Justice.

Because of that, the department suggests that battering may be even more common than they estimated, since their survey was limited to married couples.

I tend to refer to the victims as battered women, and in doing so I am not using a sexist stereotype. While it's true that men have been the victims of abuse, 95 percent of the time the men abuse the women.

Husbands and wives kill each other in about equal numbers, but a study suggests that wives are seven times more likely to murder their husbands in self defense.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about family violence is the fact that it occurs across the board.

Not long ago, a colleague told me that abuse results when people are depressed or frustrated with their lives and don't know how to fight back. It comes from poverty and ethnic problems, he said.

I wish we could pigeonhole the problem that easily. If we could pinpoint common threads in situations where abuse occurs, maybe we could prevent it.

But the facts are clear: the number of wife-abuse cases reported in a working class, black neighborhood in New York was the same as the number reported in a white, upper middle class area in Connecticut, with about the same population. A number of studies have reached identical conclusions.

Money, race, creed - none of those factors seem to have an impact on abuse. Abused - and abusive - families are black, white, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Native American. They are wealthy, middle class, working class, and poor. They are elementary school, high school, or college educated.

They are just people.

And the violence starts early. In a study of 256 high school students in Sacramento (not a town that's known as a particularly wild place), 35 percent reported various levels of violence in dating relationships.

Nationwide, in a 1982 study, 12 percent of the high school students reported abuse, with the first incident usually occurring at age 15.

Studies of college students found a high rate of dating violence, too.

At Arizona State University, for example, 60 percent of students of both sexes had experienced violence while dating. At the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, 21 percent had experienced abuse. At Oregon State University, almost one-quarter had been abused.

Different people have different ideas about how family violence can be stopped. But everyone seems to agree that no one should have a right to abuse anyone else.

Which leaves me with one question: If everyone agrees, then why are so many people abusing each other?