This time, when he flew into a rage and beat her, she sought help.

She went to the police, and an attorney helped her obtain a protective order to keep away her abusive husband. Meanwhile, prosecutors prepared criminal charges.In the weeks that followed, she had a change of heart. Maybe, she rationalized, if I drop the charges, things will be different. He'll forgive me, and things will get better.

A growing number of Utah women in that "honeymoon period" of domestic violence do that exact thing. They appear before a judge and petition him or her to drop the charges against their batterers, as permitted under Utah law.

"Originally, it was one or two cases that made the newspapers. Now I understand this happens on a weekly basis," said Paul Boyden of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors.

A bill before the Utah Legislature would end that practice. Under HB227, victims of domestic violence could no longer directly petition the court to dismiss charges against the defendant.

"It is the only statute that authorizes someone other than the state or the defense to make a motion to dismiss," said Rep. Afton Bradshaw, R-Salt Lake, the bill's sponsor.

"Needless to say, the pressure to dismiss the charges against the accuser is tremendous."

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee endorsed the bill and sent it to the House for further consideration.

Diane Stuart, state coordinator of the Utah Domestic Violence Cabinet Council, said some women pull the plug on court proceedings because they mistakenly believe they can quell the situation if they forgive and forget.

"The trouble is, we know violence increases in severity and frequency over time. When it increases in severity and frequency over time, we know the next time it's going to be worse.

"She doesn't want to believe it. Who wouldn't? She wants to believe that 'I'm going to make everything OK. He's going to love me so much, everything's going to be OK,' " Stuart said.

Counselors who work with domestic abuse victims attempt to explain options. Going through the judicial system may give abusers a chance to change their behaviors. Victims can obtain counseling.

Completing treatment is a crucial element in breaking the cycle of abuse.

"We know from research, if an individual completes treatment, they have a 70 percent greater probability of not repeating the violence," Stuart said.

The newly released state report on domestic violence shows a decidedly upward trend in the number court orders issued by Utah judges intended to protect victims of domestic violence.

More than 7,700 protective orders were issued in 1997, compared to 3,957 in 1994, according to the report.

Reports of domestic violence demonstrated a similar spike. At the same time, the number of homicides tied to domestic violence fell from 12 in 1995 to seven in 1997.

While experts can't say for sure, they theorize more people are seeking help to stem violence in their homes. The numbers also suggest the incidence of the crime reporting may be increasing.

"It's becoming less of a stigma to reach out and get help than it has been before. I think that's encouraging," Stuart said.

Some 15 domestic violence shelters are available statewide. Another piece of legislation seeks to enhance shelter options in San Juan County. Currently, only one "safe room" exists, Stuart said.

Stuart said shelters need additional funding to improve the salaries of people who run them.

"I did this for five years in Logan, and it is extremely difficult work. The people who run these shelters are underpaid and very few have benefits, but they hang in there because they know their work is crucial."

During her days as a shelter director, the stress was sometimes so overwhelming she'd leave the facility and return with an armload of ice cream to treat the staff and help ease the tension.

"Those were the Haagen Daz days," Stuart said.