To love, honor and . . . never, ever abuse your mate.

While the abuse part may not be part of the traditional wording in marriage ceremonies, Rep. Sara Eubank, D-Salt Lake, now wants a state law that would require those getting married to sign a statement acknowledging:"I understand that a marriage license does not give me the right to ever physically or emotionally abuse my spouse."

She also wants to toughen state laws requiring would-be spouses to have counseling before they get married and to require that counseling include "information concerning domestic violence and resources in the community to address problems of domestic violence."

"Too many people think a marriage license is a license to do anything they want," Eubank says. "Suddenly they think it is OK to lash out and show anger in ways that are not appropriate."

Realistically, Eubank admits that her HB36, to be debated during the 1994 Legislature, will not in and of itself do a lot to curb domestic violence. But it will, however, raise awareness of a problem she says is all too commonplace.

"If we can somehow raise consciousness, raise our level of thinking before the marriage covenant, hopefully we can start to turn around the problem," she said. "It will have a positive effect in the long term."

Eubank says the "awareness" approach is designed to tackle the root of the problem instead of "putting a Band-aid on it after abuse has occurred." The more the message is reinforced that abuse is unacceptable, the more stereotypical attitudes will change.

Too often, she said, there is an attitude that if a spouse is abused, the victim must have done something to deserve it. "That's just not true."

"When a person applies for a marriage license, it needs to be part of it, that a marriage license does not give them the right to physically, emotionally or mentally abuse their partner in any way."

"It is really, really grim where we have degenerated as a society to that point where we have to say, `You do not violate another human being.' Hopefully, this bill is a step back to those kinds of attitudes."

HB36 would also beef up a little-known state law that requires counties to develop master plans that set requirements for premarital counseling. Most counties have not adopted those plans, and those that have rarely enforce the requirements.

Under current law, that counseling is to be done by a religious leader or professional counselor.

Eubank wants those county master plans to require counselors to emphasize spousal abuse prevention. "If there had been real due diligence before the marriage took place, we could have directed the couple in the right direction . . . and maybe saved the family and courts a lot of grief," she said.

The problem of spousal abuse, she says, is unfortunately rooted in a societal belief that when you marry someone, your new partner suddenly believes he or she has the right to control your life. "It's a societal thing that has become ingrained in us," she said. "The only way to start changing that viewpoint is by putting it in black and white."

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In Utah, officials estimate there are at least 55,000 cases of domestic violence every year. In Salt Lake City alone, there were 3,000 reported cases in 1991, 1,000 of which resulted in arrests.

"We estimate that only one in 10 or one in 15 incidents ever gets reported," said LeRoy Franke, domestic violence specialist with the Division of Family Services.

Studies also indicate that 25 percent of pregnant women are abused and that domestic violence is the number one cause of spontaneous abortion. Twenty-one to 30 percent of all women who go to emergency rooms are the victims of domestic violence, Franke said.

"The statistics are alarming," Franke says. "Women are really safer on the streets than they are in their own homes. It's scary."

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