<title>10-11-96: Presentation before the First National Interfaith Breakfast: A Call to End Violence Against Women</title>









         9                       JANET RENO




        13          Hart Senate Office Building, Room 908

        14                    Washington, D.C.

        15                    October 11, 1996








         1                 P R E S E N T A T I O N

         2               Thank you so much, and thank you for

         3     that warm welcome, but it is I that should be

         4     applauding all of you.  I see people that I

         5     have met in these last three and a half years,

         6     and I see people whose reputation has preceded

         7     them in these last three and a half

         8     years, and I just admire the work that you do

         9     throughout this nation.  Thank you.

        10               And I thank you for joining us today

        11     at this first National Interfaith Breakfast

        12     devoted to the issue of violence against women.

        13     This breakfast is the culmination of many

        14     months of work by the Center for the Prevention

        15     of Sexual and Domestic Violence, the National

        16     Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.,

        17     and the National Jewish Community Relations

        18     Advisory Council.

        19               I know that I speak for us all when I

        20     say thank you so very, very much for doing this

        21     and for giving us this opportunity to highlight

        22     this issue in this nation.  I know that, as a

         1     result of your work, breakfast and other

         2     activities are being held today in communities

         3     throughout the country, bringing together

         4     representatives of domestic violence, and

         5     sexual assault prevention programs with their

         6     local ecumenical and interfaith groups.

         7               I am honored that you have asked me

         8     to join you this morning to discuss some of our

         9     efforts at the Justice Department to combat

        10     domestic violence and violence against women.

        11     This has been a concern of mine since I served

        12     as State Attorney in Dade County, which is

        13     Miami's county, for fifteen years.

        14               In 1978, just after I took office,

        15     our medical examiner called me and said, "Why

        16     don't you come analyze our cases to see why

        17     people have been killed in the county in the

        18     previous 20 years?  We have good records."

        19               We asked the University of Miami

        20     interns to volunteer, and together we analyzed

        21     the records, and forty percent of the homicides

        22     were related to domestic violence, ex-spouse,

         1     boyfriend-girlfriend, husband and wife.

         2               And we focused through an LEAA grant

         3     in developing a domestic intervention program.

         4     At that time, police weren't that interested,

         5     they just referred to the case as, "That's a

         6     domestic."  Judges weren't that interested:

         7     They were happy when the woman wanted to drop

         8     the case.

         9               But we tried to persevere in

        10     developing a domestic violence unit, and I had

        11     a policy that said you don't drop the case

        12     unless I have a chance to speak to the victim.

        13     And so, for fifteen years I spoke to a lot of

        14     victims.

        15               And the pain and the terror and the

        16     heartbreak and the abasement will live with me

        17     for the rest of my life.  It is a prison worse

        18     than any prison you can put people in.  And it

        19     made me convinced that this was an effort that

        20     must be developed across the country.

        21               I am happy to tell you that, by the

        22     time I left, there were only a couple of judges

         1     that didn't take their cases seriously, and

         2     police departments were beginning to galvanize

         3     around the issue.

         4               But we must do it across the country

         5     because it is not just a large urban area.  I

         6     go to Iowa or to Kentucky and talk to

         7     representatives from small towns or just rural

         8     counties, and they tell me the same problem.

         9     And it is more acute in that distant Iowa

        10     county because they don't have access to shelters.

        11     They don't have access to counselling.  It is

        12     more difficult, and they are more alone.

        13               So, wherever we are in this great

        14     country, this is an area that we must focus on.

        15     But it is not just domestic violence; it is

        16     sexual assault against women.  We were

        17     fortunate to have a marvelous rape treatment

        18     center in Miami, one of the first and best in

        19     the nation.

        20               But, again, to sit with victims, to

        21     feel their pain, to have some understanding,

        22     after hearing from one victim after another,

         1     what it was like, it is so important that we

         2     focus our efforts as we do this morning.

         3               But the solutions to domestic

         4     violence and violence throughout our society

         5     are not going to be found by prosecutors alone

         6     or by police alone or social workers or

         7     religious leaders working just by themselves.

         8               The answer is going to be found only

         9     when all of us are a part of this effort, and

        10     it is vitally important that the religious

        11     community be a part of it.

        12               One of the reasons it is so important

        13     is so many women have told me, "I didn't know

        14     who to go to.  My doctor, after he finished

        15     putting in the stitches, didn't want to talk

        16     about it.  I didn't know who to go to."

        17               And one's church, one's temple may be

        18     the best way for people to open the door to a

        19     new world for themselves.  It is only when all

        20     of us are involved that we can build a seamless

        21     system of care, a multi-faceted system that

        22     brings police and prosecutors, health care

         1     professionals and social workers, educators,

         2     employers, and religious leaders together at

         3     the same table and in the lives of victims or

         4     potential victims, sharing ideas and

         5     perspectives and working together to find

         6     answers to the problem.

         7               One of the great challenges we face

         8     today is to bring even more people into the

         9     effort, to increase the number of Americans who

        10     are willing to stand up and work for an end to

        11     domestic violence and other forms of violence

        12     against women.

        13               As you know, for the second year in a

        14     row, President Clinton has named October as

        15     National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

        16     During this month, efforts are under way

        17     throughout our country to increase the

        18     awareness of women at risk of the resources

        19     available to them, and, perhaps just as

        20     importantly, efforts are under way to educate

        21     all Americans about this issue and the ways

        22     they can make a contribution to ending the

         1     violence.

         2               It is so gratifying to see men across

         3     this nation standing up and saying, "We want to

         4     work with you," and telling us it isn't going

         5     to work unless we are part of the team.  It is

         6     so gratifying for me, and I am deeply

         7     appreciative.

         8               Last week, as part of domestic

         9     violence awareness month, I released a new

        10     community check list prepared by the members of

        11     the Advisory Council on Violence Against Women,

        12     a group of leaders from the public and private

        13     sector who have worked for the past year and a

        14     half to help implement the Violence Against

        15     Women Act.

        16               Marie Fortune represents the

        17     religious community on the Council, and she has

        18     done a wonderful job bringing together some

        19     concrete recommendations on what can be done

        20     within the religious community to highlight the

        21     issue of domestic violence and to provide real

        22     assistance to families who are in need.

         1               I hope you will take an opportunity

         2     to review the recommendations included in the

         3     community checklist.  They include ideas for

         4     making churches, synagogues, mosques, and

         5     meeting halls safe places for women who are

         6     abused, ideas for educating members of your

         7     congregations, and ideas for working with other

         8     interested members of your community to

         9     highlight the importance of this issue.

        10               The work that council has done,

        11     Marie, has just been extraordinary.  It is

        12     wonderful to have business leaders, religious

        13     leaders, the head of the ABA, the head of the

        14     AMA, sitting around a table, and telling Donna

        15     Shalala and me, "Okay, now, these are good

        16     ideas, what are you going to do about them?"

        17               So, as I prepare for the next council

        18     meeting, I am saying, "Okay what have we done?

        19     I am not going back there until I have proved

        20     to them what we have done."

        21               If there are things that we can do to

        22     help you, all you have to do is to let us know.

         1     I know that Bonnie Campbell and the Violence

         2     Against Women office, our U.S. Attorneys and

         3     their staffs, the FBI and other law enforcement

         4     officials in the Federal Government would be

         5     happy to work with local officials and

         6     religious leaders to highlight the seriousness

         7     of domestic and sexual violence and our

         8     commitment to end it.

         9               There are 93 U.S. Attorneys in this

        10     country.  When I first became involved in the

        11     criminal justice system, I thought that they

        12     prosecuted bank robberies.  Then I thought that

        13     they prosecuted drug cases, but I thought that

        14     they could be a marvelous force for good on so

        15     many different fronts, including our efforts in

        16     violence against women.  And they can be a

        17     great ally for you in your district.

        18               Throughout October, in communities

        19     all across America, activities are planned in

        20     union halls and school auditoriums, in board

        21     rooms and community centers, in public squares

        22     and in places of worship to call attention to

         1     the problem of domestic violence.

         2               Something exciting is happening

         3     because of the efforts of people in this room,

         4     because of so many others working across the

         5     country.  When the Kentucky legislature,

         6     Republicans and Democrats, asked me to address

         7     them to talk about domestic violence and greet

         8     me with bipartisan support and congratulations,

         9     you know there is something happening across

        10     this country.

        11               When Republicans and Democrats come

        12     together, when people from all walks of life

        13     start saying, "What can we do about it?" you

        14     know that our efforts are beginning to work,

        15     but we can't stop now.  We must do so much

        16     more.

        17               Last week, I was in Cleveland, Ohio,

        18     where I met with members of three different bar

        19     associations who have joined together to

        20     provide assistance to women who come from

        21     violent homes.  At 2:00 on a weekday afternoon,

        22     when they could be putting in billable hours or

         1     drawing fees, there were approximately 100

         2     lawyers in that room finding out how they could

         3     volunteer to assist and support victims of

         4     domestic violence.

         5               Later in the week, I spoke at the

         6     Justice Department's second annual domestic

         7     violence information fair.  Again, I was struck

         8     by the willingness of so many people to sit in

         9     the Great Hall of the Department of Justice and

        10     talk to people who came to their section to

        11     give them information on their aspect of what

        12     can be done about domestic violence.

        13               There is an energy, there is an

        14     excitement across this land.  We are also

        15     seeing an increased realization within the

        16     business community that they can be a partner

        17     in this effort.

        18               The word is spreading from companies

        19     such as Marshalls and Polaroid and Aetna to

        20     companies around the nation that the work place

        21     can be an important resource for women who are

        22     at risk.

         1               And this is an important partnership

         2     for the religious community to consider.  I

         3     knew from my own experience that the victims of

         4     domestic violence were often sought in the work

         5     place, that the impact of domestic violence was

         6     felt in the work place.  It is exciting to see

         7     employee assistant professionals who are

         8     working together with our office to develop

         9     programs to focus on what can be done.

        10               Many battered women are working, and

        11     while they cannot go to the police or to the

        12     hospital because they are afraid, they do go to

        13     work.  They need colleagues and supervisors who

        14     understand their situation and support their

        15     efforts to protect themselves and their

        16     families.

        17               At the Justice Department, we are

        18     working to ensure that all of our employees

        19     have access to information and resources that

        20     can be of real help.  In addition to our annual

        21     information fair, we also distributed a

        22     resource book.

         1               We include the National Domestic

         2     Violence hot line number, 1-800-799-SAFE or TDD

         3     1-800-787-3224, in our monthly newsletter,

         4     "Justice For All," and we recently created a

         5     violence against women home page on the

         6     Internet.

         7               The Justice Department is acting as a

         8     resource and a partner for state and local

         9     enforcement as we implement the Violence

        10     Against Women Act.  We are prosecuting

        11     batterers who cross state line to avoid state

        12     prosecutions.

        13               We are providing hundreds of millions

        14     of dollars and grants to the states for hiring,

        15     and training new police and prosecutors and

        16     victim's advocates.  We are funding grants for

        17     abused women and children in rural America and

        18     grants to encourage mandatory arrest policies

        19     for the primary aggressor in domestic abuse

        20     cases.

        21               We are making a real effort to

        22     improve the criminal justice system's ability

         1     to deal effectively with domestic violence.  I

         2     have seen what it is like to have a

         3     well-meaning, insensitive prosecutor handle a

         4     domestic violence case, and it isn't a pretty

         5     sight.

         6               What has been so touching, though, is

         7     to see in those fifteen years that I served as

         8     a prosecutor, a minister or member of the

         9     victim's church come with them.  Before I have

        10     gotten to the case to hear how oafish the

        11     prosecutor had been, the minister had already

        12     told him or her how to do it a little bit

        13     better.

        14               We can do so much if we perform

        15     partnerships like that, inform them, and if we

        16     stand up for the victims.  I know from speaking

        17     with police chiefs throughout the country that

        18     they often find domestic violence incidents to

        19     be the most dangerous and difficult encounters

        20     they experience on the job.

        21               We are helping local departments hire

        22     new officers who will use the proven methods of

         1     community policing to focus exclusively on

         2     domestic violence, and I have had a chance to

         3     meet with community police officers across this

         4     nation, people who have come to know their

         5     neighborhood, the churches in the neighborhood,

         6     the religious leaders, the citizens, the people

         7     who care, the teachers.  We can do so much if

         8     we form alliances to focus on the people in our

         9     neighborhood and put them first, all the

        10     people.

        11               We have got to make sure that they

        12     know where to go, and, again, the religious

        13     community can do so much.  We are also helping

        14     to develop training programs for judges and

        15     victims' advocates and others.

        16               We are developing domestic violence

        17     workshops, and programs with such organizations

        18     as the National District Attorney's

        19     Association, the Police Executive Research

        20     Forum, and the International Associations of

        21     Chiefs of Police.

        22               We are funding a pilot project to

         1     serve as a testing ground to ensure that

         2     protective orders are given full faith and

         3     credit by police and courts in every state.

         4               This nation is on the move.  It is so

         5     frustrating and was so frustrating for me to

         6     see a women move from another state to Miami,

         7     terrified, and she'd come to me and say, "Here

         8     is my protective order," and I would say, "I can't

         9     anything with it.  We are going to have to file

        10     a new one." "But he may already be here, what

        11     am I going to do?"

        12               It is important that we develop in

        13     the criminal justice system a network across

        14     the country that will let that one, first

        15     protective order be the key for what the rest of the

        16     nation requires. 


        18               But as this nation is on the move,

        19     whether it be domestic violence or other

        20     issues, it is so important that the religious

        21     community help to contribute to that network

        22     and that those persons, as they move, sometimes

         1     move in fear, are given the names of a church

         2     or religious leaders that they can go to in the

         3     community where they are going that gives them

         4     a welcome.

         5               Miami was the destination of an awful

         6     lot of people on the move, travelling not quite

         7     knowing where they were going, adrift when they

         8     got there.  The more we can do to make America

         9     have the sense that it comes home, the better

        10     we are.

        11               In all of these efforts, we are

        12     working as partners, and as partners we are

        13     making progress.  There are so many networks.

        14     Look at the parks and recreation specialists in

        15     the park across the street from you.  Join

        16     forces with him in terms of focusing on what

        17     can be done when that child comes into the park

        18     and confides to him about what is happening at

        19     home.  Look at the school teacher who so often

        20     doesn't know what to do when the child comes to

        21     school in tears and finally blurts out what is

        22     happening.

         1               The general practitioner in the

         2     community down the block, for so long he just

         3     sewed up the wound, and he didn't do anything

         4     more.  Sit down and talk with him about

         5     domestic violence, or her, and find out what

         6     they do when a victim comes to them.

         7               We can't just sew up the wound

         8     anymore.  We have got to sew up the spirit.

         9               Today is the anniversary of the birth

        10     of Eleanor Roosevelt.  She was fond of saying

        11     that it is better to light a candle than to

        12     curse the darkness.

        13               We know the truth of that statement

        14     in the struggle to end domestic violence.  In

        15     so many ways, candles are being lit today, and

        16     the darkness is finally receding for countless

        17     thousands of women across this land.

        18               Women and families who have lived

        19     with the fear and the danger of domestic

        20     violence and sexual assault are finding the

        21     strength and the support they need to survive.

        22               This morning's breakfast is a

         1     starting point for the work that will continue

         2     in the months and years ahead.  Our joint

         3     efforts will ensure that the light of those

         4     candles will glow until every women living in

         5     the shadow of violence finds her way to safety.

         6               Working together, there is so much

         7     that we can and will do to bring an end to

         8     domestic and sexual violence.  But even then,

         9     some people tell me, "Ms. Reno, you are a nice

        10     lady, and you are well meaning, but the job is

        11     just too big."

        12               And I will take issue with those

        13     people for the rest of my life because for

        14     three and a half years I have had a chance to

        15     visit with the people of this nation, the

        16     rabbi, the minister, the doctor, the plumber,

        17     the unemployed, the kid in the detention

        18     facility, the victims.

        19               And never, ever have I felt so

        20     confident of the future of this nation.  Never,

        21     ever have I had such faith in the strength and

        22     the courage and the spirit of the people of

         1     this nation.  And much of the credit for that

         2     is due to the religious community, who through

         3     so much has reached out to bring America

         4     together.  Thank you for all that we do.

         5                    (Whereupon, at 8:25 a.m., the

         6                    PRESENTATION was adjourned.)

         7                       *  *  *  *  *