Using her experience in dealing with issues of domestic violence that she encountered during her time as Florida’s state attorney from 1978 to 1993, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno ’60 suggested a comprehensive plan to combat the problem of abuse in a speech last night in Malott Hall.
The Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of ’56 University Professor offered suggestions for the U.S. government to candidly evaluate the issue of domestic violence as a means of prevention. She also called for bipartisan support for prevention programs — such as the Violence Against Women Act of 1998 — that face budget cuts due to tremendous federal deficits.
“We work with Congress and problem-solve … These are not Democrat or Republican problems. It is something we ought to address in a thoughtful and bipartisan way,” she urged.
Reno spoke of her experience in instituting a drug court in Florida whose purpose was to find drug addicts the help they needed to get their lives together, while offering stiffer penalties for those addicts who would repeatedly find trouble with the law.
She suggested that each community come up with a means of preventing domestic violence. She also explained that until recently, law enforcement was not as involved in the issue, but has become more of a presence in solving the problem.
“The country too often waits for tragedy to occur and for crime to occur before doing something about it,” she said.
Turning to the issues of child abuse and incest, Reno recommended acting more quickly to help children to keep them from absorbing the pain of such an experience.
“In so many tragedies we see children as the witness. They become more than witness — they become victim … We can do so much if we use reason and basic guidelines,” she said.
A concern of students who attended the lecture was whether Reno’s suggestions would actually have an impact.
“I feel as though she’s in an interesting position to talk about this,” said Shane Dunn ’07. “Right now there are so many issues relating to women’s rights and we don’t talk about violence that much. Just hearing what she did in her seven years in office was intriguing and promising, but at the same time, we’ll see what happens in the next four years,” he added.
“I thought her best advice was despite political turmoil, for everyone to come together and unite, reach across the aisle,” said Casey Walsh, a junior at Ithaca College.
Reno also asked students to use the knowledge they gain at Cornell to help America solve its problems, adding that “the diversity of this University has been one of the most magical things I’ve known.”
The public lecture entitled “Impact of the Presidential Election on Violence Against Women in the United States” was part of the Cornell Advocates for Rape Education (CARE) symposium, a year-long series.
Reno has been on campus since Nov. 3 and will be here until Nov. 15 participating in several different lectures and discussions.
Archived article by Erica Temel
Sun News Editor