Provo, Orem and north Utah County areas each had more than 700 instances of domestic abuse reported in 1997.

That's higher than the national average, according to experts gathered for the community information meeting last week at Mountain View High School.Nationally, one in eight marriages is visited by abuse.

In Utah County, it's closer to one in four.

And those who abuse are not going to stop without serious treatment and intervention, the experts say.

"It's hard to believe in Utah County," said David Hafen, a therapist with the American Fork Clinic. "But it's here and it happens."

Jerry Harris, a treatment coordinator with LDS Church Social Services, said there's no real difference in physical, emotional and sexual damage, except in the choice of weapons.

Emotional abuse from a spouse is the most lasting kind of abuse. Physical abuse is more visible, said Michael Robinson, a therapist with the Intermountain Specialized Abuse Treatment.

Whatever the result, the cycle of abuse remains predictable and tragically affects children.

Larry Van Bloem, therapist with the Cascade Center for Family Growth, said a boy raised in a home where he witnesses abuse is a 1,000 percent more likely to be an abuser. A girl raised in such an environment is 600 percent more likely to become a victim.

Van Bloem said research is showing that the defense mechanism developed to allow a child to grow up around an abuser turns into a blind spot when that child grows and looks for a life partner.

Abusers tend to fit a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde profile that includes possessiveness and jealousy, a quick temper, a tendency to blame others for problems and a need to control others.

One victim's husband ripped up all of her clothes so she literally could not leave the home.

Some keep the victims broke and bereft of resources.

"When I teach about this at the Police Academy, I have the class members empty their pockets and give me their wallets, their keys, everything," said Vicky Proctor, the Adult Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Provo Police Department. "I want them to see how it feels to be vulnerable. You can't get very far on a dollar."

Diana Cornell, Victim Assistance Coordinator for North Utah County, said abusers and their victims become addicted to the violence cycle which can go on for years. Tension builds as the victim tries to guess and avoid what will set off the violence.

"Usually it's over something like eggs that are not cooked right," Cornell said. "The victim is walking on egg shells and finally gets so tired of waiting for the trigger, she'll sometimes deliberately break the tension just to get it over with."

The violence usually includes things thrown, children hurt, possessions broken. Victims are demeaned, humiliated, shoved, raped, burned and generally subjected to unspeakable kinds of torture and pain.

"It's a miracle they live. And the violence always escalates," Cornell said.

Once the violence is over, there's a very short time before the next phase known as the honeymoon phase starts.

In the honeymoon phase, the victim sees the guy she fell in love with. Typically there's a showering of gifts and attention and the victim begins to hope it will last.

"But it never, ever, lasts," Cornell said. "The cycle is not broken without therapy."

That short time period is when social workers and victim assistance coordinators can help the most, she said.

"If women can remember the babies, she can be persuaded. We like to catch the victims soon after the violence. If you wait, you lose them," Cornell said.

Counselors and ecclesiastical leaders in the community need to realize the priority cannot be keeping a family together when violence is part of the picture.

"The violence must be stopped," Cornell said.

Betty McMaster, victim assistance coordinator for Orem, said women who are hurt by their partners are ashamed.

"To live we have to feel we can trust our judgment," she said.

That shame makes it difficult for police to help much when they respond to a domestic violence call, said American Fork Police Chief John Durrant. Victims will recant, deny and even turn against the people they've called on for help. All police can usually do is stop the immediate problem.

"We're a temporary fix," Durrant said. "We're a valuable resource, but we're not the answer."

Protective orders are easier to put in place than in the past, Durrant said. He also said the victim advocates working with the police agencies are making a significant difference in battling abuse.

"I don't know what we did without ours," said Orem Police Capt. Terry Taylor.