IT happened at least 60,000 times last year in Scotland.

That's 5000 occasions each month that fists flew, eyes were blackened, teeth smashed and hearts broken. Behind closed doors, our men lashed out.

Women did too - a sizeable handful of them. But mostly it was men who slapped or punched their girlfriend or sent their wife flying across a room. Mostly it was men who were blind to the terror on their children's faces - or who derived a twisted sense of power from the sight.

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Reported incidents of this crime have soared from around 36,000 a decade ago. But it's not the violence that's increasing. The rise is in the numbers of women who have found the courage to report the crime.

Soon we might have a preventative weapon to add to the victims' arsenal. It's called Clare's Law and it could be coming to Scotland.

Clare's Law allows women to check out a partner's past. It enables people in a relationship, and their friends and family, to check for previous convictions for violent behaviour. It flags up danger. It is designed to help potential victims escape the trap they are walking into.

Should Scotland adopt it? Why not, you might wonder? With such a huge violence problem, prevention surely must be part of the cure. If anything, huge is an understatement. In Strathclyde alone there were 23,395 domestic abuse crimes in 2011-2012. They included three murders, 11 attempted murders, 59 rapes and 862 indecent assaults. But like almost everything to do with domestic violence, the solution is complicated.

Clare's Law was a response to the murder in 2009 of Clare Wood by a former boyfriend. He had, unknown to her, a long history of domestic violence. She had complained to police about George Appleton before her death.

The law that carries her name is nearing the end of a pilot in England and Wales. Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is waiting for the formal evaluation before deciding whether to introduce it here. But he seems sympathetic to the idea.

Certainly a lot needs to improve in Scotland.

Victims of domestic violence are slow to report the crime. Sometimes a woman will still love the man who is beating her. More often he won't let her go. He doesn't hit her all the time and is charming when repentant. She is isolated and ashamed. Her confidence is so eroded she can't think straight. How can she raise her children alone? She has no financial independence - and so on and on.

Her fears are a mixture of reason and emotion. The risks she faces could include losing her life or seeing her children harmed. Each victim who overcomes them should be congratulated. Scotland's police and Government deserve praise for having given so many more women confidence that they will receive support when they do speak up.

But is that confidence now in danger of being misplaced? The conviction rate is a miserable one in 10. Also, as The Herald reported on Saturday, the specialist court designed to offer victims multi-agency support has become a victim of its own success.

Cases that were supposed to clear in six weeks are taking 40 weeks or more. There are many more cases than expected and investigations are complex. Previous partners of the accused are sought for corroborative evidence. That takes time.

But the importance of this approach was evident when MSP Bill Walker was recently convicted of 23 assaults against three former wives.

As a consequence of the court being swamped, police are considering moving away from automatically placing an accused in custody to releasing them on a strengthened police bail. The aim is to free up the courts to focus on the most serious cases. The consequences could set the reporting of domestic violence back years.

What message will victims receive if the men they report enter a revolving door at the police station? Plus ca change. What terror will they face if he's let out on bail?

All the more reason, you might say, to make prevention the way forward. The English pilot of Clare's Law has exposed around 100 men with a violent history. Its supporters suggest that figure would rise to several thousands should it become adopted nationwide. Judging by the crime statistics, it certainly ought to.

Could it help stop abuse before it started? Would women ditch a new boyfriend with a bad track record? Would the knowledge that they are on a blacklist for life deter violent men?

If only.

Many a woman, in the first flush of love or infatuation, is convinced she can change a man. She thinks he is misunderstood; that with her it will be different. It's a form of optimism that sees women taking on a known womaniser. It explains why one of his abused wives almost married Bill Walker twice.

It's part of the reason so many women carry on taking undeserved punishment from violent men. So will the revelation of previous convictions make the difference?

Then there is the danger of false reassurance. Again look at Walker. He had decades of violent behaviour but he had no conviction until recently.

So, having run a check, the potential victim - or their family - might receive false assurance. They will feel guilty for having doubted someone and possibly foolish for letting anxiety run away with them. And all the time their instincts could have been right.

Women's Aid points out that those most at risk are leaving a relationship or have just left. The charity emphasises the importance in educating women about early warning signs. Control can mask itself as excessive affection.

But crucially the question is whether our Justice Minister should pursue a new initiative when the well-intentioned specialist court is on the point of seizing up. A 40-week turn-around is a disaster for victims. Police bail for violent men is unacceptable.

The unexpectedly high volume of reported crime is no excuse. Wasn't this what the authorities wanted? The worry now is a funding shortfall to sort out the mess. But won't the fix, and the money, be easier to find if all concerned focused on the task in hand instead of bringing in a new initiative like Clare's Law?

"No," says Mhairi McGowan, head of Assist, the expert advocacy and support service for victims of domestic abuse.

"Not everywhere in Scotland has a specialist court," she points out, "but victims everywhere could benefit from knowing about a violent past. We owe it to them. It's the power of knowledge.

"We must see the evaluation and consider practicalities but we need Clare's Law and the specialist court. We need both."

Of course, she's right. It's a matter of political will, even in these times of public spending austerity. For decades women victims of domestic abuse have been short-changed by the justice system. Like the abuse itself, it has to stop now.