November 3, 1997
Volume 50, No. 11
Attorney General Reno delivers Rosalynn Carter lecture
Using the occasion to address the issue of domestic violence, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno delivered the fifth annual Rosalynn Carter Distinguished Lecture to a capacity crowd in Glenn Auditorium Oct. 23.
"I call on everyone to renew our efforts against domestic violence," said Reno, who has served as attorney general since 1993. "That child who watches his father beat his mother comes to accept violence as a way of life; he will become the perpetrator or he will become the violent youngster on the streets. We will never end violence in American unless we begin to end it in the home."
People had to be turned away from the 1,500-seat Glenn, which was overflowing, and directed to nearby White Hall to watch Reno's address on closed-circuit television. "When she was nominated, she'd already been in public service for more than 20 years," Rosalynn Carter said in introducing Reno. "She was one of 16 women in a class of over 500 [at Harvard Law School]. She was appointed Florida's first woman state prosecutor ... at the time Jimmy was president, and she was re-elected five times. Congratulations, Janet. We never learned how to do that."
Taking the lectern, Reno first gave words of advice to Emory students: "I urge you, whatever you do, to pursue public service as a volunteer or in some part of your life. You will find it so extraordinarily rewarding; every single one of us can make a difference for the better in the life of another if we only try hard enough."
She then turned her attention to addressing domestic violence-"It is clearly a public health issue," Reno said-and many of the problems surrounding it. Four million women were victims of violent crime in 1995, she said, and two-thirds of those were victimized by someone they knew. In 1996, 30 percent of female murder victims were killed by their current or former husbands or boyfriends.
"These figures are unacceptable," Reno said. "This is a crime for which we have warning signals. These are crimes that can be prevented if we intervene and stop the cycle of violence."
Reno applauded the 1994 Violence Against Women act as a "crucial turning point in our national effort" to break that violent cycle, saying that in fiscal year 1997 more than $145 million in federal grants was awarded under the act to local domestic violence programs. In Georgia, she said, 56 programs received more $2 million in federal funds to train police, hire prosecutors, support rape crisis centers and shelters for battered women, and help programs devoted to minority and non-English-speaking women.
"Community policing is a remarkable tool," Reno continued. "It's the police officers who are so often on the frontlines and get the call to respond. Too often that is a very dangerous call to make.."
Reno listed a number of other initiatives to fight family violence, including the advent of specialized domestic violence courts, streamlining of complaint and service processes, and a national domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE.
She said Emory and other research universities could play a significant role in reducing domestic violence by working to find psychological causes for violent behavior and to help evaluate the effectiveness of programs designed to curb it.
"Too often, as I sat there in my office in Miami and tried to persuade a woman to go forward with a prosecution, she would say, 'But he needs help. He's an alcoholic, and I don't know what to do.' If this nation can send a man to the moon, it can do far more in unlocking the secrets of what causes people to abuse alcohol and drugs, and if we start down that road, we're going to find the solution to a lot of other problems."
Reno stayed long after her lecture, answering questions and talking one-on-one with audience members. She also gave advice to students about careers in law and counseled people about domestic violence issues.
"I was thrilled the attorney general chose this opportunity to make a major speech on domestic violence," Rosalynn Carter said. "This is an important issue, not just in the United States but around the world. When I met with first ladies from countries throughout this hemisphere recently, this was one of the highest items on their agenda."
Appointed the first Distinguished Fellow of the Emory Institute for Women's Studies in 1989, Carter has established the Rosalynn Carter Programs in Public Policy, of which the Distinguished Lecture is the centerpiece. Past lecturers include Myrlie Evers-Williams, Jocelyn Elders and Sarah Weddington.