Jeffrey L. Romero
Sexual Assault Victim Advocate
Department of the Air Force
10206 Shetland Gate
San Antonio, Texas 78254
Jeff Romero was born in Ponce,
Puerto Rico, in 1971. He received an Associates Degree in Instructor of Technology and Military Science from the Community College of the Air Force, Maxwell-Gunther Air Force Base, Alabama in 2009, a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from Thomas Edison State University, Trenton, New Jersey in 2006, and a Master’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana in 2016.
In 1992, he began his 20-year career by serving in the United States Air Force in various capacities in law enforcement, security, anti-terrorism, airfield security operations, and basic military training. Of his 20 years in the military, six of them were spent as a volunteer sexual assault victim advocate for service members and their families. After retiring from the Air Force in 2012, he began working as the Airport Security Supervisor, San Antonio International Airport, City of San Antonio. Finally, he returned to continue to support survivors of sexual assault beginning his Federal Civil Service career in 2013 as Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Specialist at Air Force Basic Military Training, and in 2016, he became the Sexual Assault Victim Advocate for the 502d Air Base Wing, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
He is married to Vicola K. Romero of Kingston, Jamaica and they have one daughter named Jessica K. Romero. He and his family currently reside in San Antonio, Texas.
Suggested Methodologies to help Survivors to hold on through the hard times
Sexual Assault/Rape is one of the most violent crimes in our society. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report, in 2017, there just under 136,000 were reported to law enforcement nationwide. As a Victim Advocate who specializes in crisis intervention, numbers like these make me ask a lot of questions. Are we doing enough to address the severity of this crime? How can we assure others and those who are already survivors that they’re safe from victimization or re-victimization, respectively? Will it ever be safe for our children to go to school, college or anywhere where they may be a potential target; now or in the future? Unfortunately, these are legitimate concerns we all should have. I’ve been involved in educating and advocating for the eradication of sexual assault since 2006. This is the message that I deliver to everyone who’s part of my audience; to prevent this crime from happening. Although I advocate for sexual assault survivors, I could never understand what they go through or what they are feeling internally. Still, I continue to fight for those who don’t have a voice. Compassion requires a great deal of patience, care, and understanding. Most of all it requires trust.
Initial contact with a survivor is critical. If they come to you, it’s because they feel that they can trust you to protect their privacy. More importantly, survivors are looking to be believed. Believing is an essential step. Not only does it establish rapport between both of you, but it also encourages survivors to talk about their situation.
A survivor is not looking for someone to resolve their issues. They are looking for you to show care, empathy, helping them with a decision and not to blame them for what happened. The hardest thing for others to do is to put yourself in the victim’s shoes. If a person has been raped and they come to you, ask yourself; how would I want to be treated if it was me? Did I really do this to myself? Will anyone believe me? These are just a few of the many questions that victims ask themselves. Encourage and help them to comprehend that the only person at fault is the person who assaulted them. This approach will help them on their journey from a victim and becoming a survivor. Though, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
After the storm, there will still be some cloudy days. There will be days that a survivor feels like a victim and vice versa. The main reason I identify victims of sexual assault/rape as survivors are because during a rape 58% of victims do not expect to survive. Due to their traumatic experience, rape survivors may find themselves of living in various moments of vulnerability. These can be caused by a triggering event or even constantly talking about their assault – re-victimization. The job of the listener is to listen and be there for them. Don’t ask questions that will make them feel that is not ok to feel the way they do. Don’t downplay their situation. Above all, help them to navigate away from their moment of crisis. Once there, offer them additional support if they want it. Under any circumstances, don’t force them to do anything they are not uncomfortable with.
Forcing a survivor to do something that they are not comfortable with is the last thing you should do. A person may think that the survivor ought to do something about their situation because it’s the right thing to do, such as reporting the crime to authorities. If they don’t want to, give them the space they need. It just may not be the right time for them. At the same time, let them know its ok to ask for help, but don’t smother them. If there are any signs of them threating their lives or someone else’s, don’t leave them alone. Encourage them to get medical care as quickly as possible. Ask if they would like to be escorted. Overall, the essential elements in helping survivors cope with the hard times are self-empowerment and encouragement.
Rape is about power and control – nothing else. For a victim to become a survivor it’s important for others to encourage them to understand they have the power to get help and support. Helping them to understand that it’s not their fault is tough, but not impossible. It takes time. I don’t have all the right answers. In my experience, these are some suggestions for the right things for others to do that will help survivors. Sexual Assault affects every aspect of our lives. Let’s do what we can to support survivors who are struggling through tough times. In reality, they shouldn’t have been victims of this crime in the first place.