The last military article was April 10, 2014. At that time we heard from SFC Toni Nelson Coordinator, of the Department of the U.S. Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Department.
I thought it was again time to hear from another branch of the Military.
Therefore, it is my pleasure to introduce Jeffrey Romero L, GS-11 United States Air Force AETC 502 ABW/CVS. Jeffrey will explain his role as an Air Force Sexual Assault Victim Advocate. Jeffrey Romero is a delightful person to collaborate with. Jeffrey L. Romero is a force to be reckoned with!
You will hear Jeffrey’s passion and commitment to his role as he answers the interview questions.
Thank you, Jeffrey L. Romero, for what you are doing to help victims of sexual assault.
Military Interview with Jeffrey L. Romero, Sexual Assault Victim Advocate
**Disclaimer: Please note that are some questions that will not be able to answer directly or effectively. I can only speak with regards to my perspective as a federal civil service member to the Department of the Air Force. Additionally, the Military is continually improving our existing programs; there may be some answers that will not be as detailed as others.
QUESTION: Are background checks part of the enlistment procedure and is Sexual Assault part of the background check?
Yes, background checks are part of the enlistment and even commissioning process for the Military. Every member who wants to join must have a security clearance. Military recruiters do ask (written) broad questions to potential recruits about being involved or a victim of any crime, but I’m not sure if they ask specific questions about sexual assaults (from the perspective of committing the crime). However, I’ve heard from some of my clients that they do ask (written) if they were victims of sexual assault. Moreover, the questionnaire is just a preliminary process of the background check. Military members’ background is constantly screened even after answering those questions. If a member has falsified an answer, it can hold serious consequences from being ineligible for any military service to imprisonment.
QUESTION: What programs are in place to help identify offenders
The Military is continually developing programs to better identify offenders before they offend. For example, we currently have a Primary of Violence program representatives. They educate the military community on bystander intervention in regards to all forms of violence from suicide prevention to sexual assault. We have additional programs that are being worked that unfortunately, I will not be able to discuss because it’s not operational yet.
QUESTION: Is there a difference in how you provide services to a female victim vs. a male victim? If so, can you explain the difference?
In my approach, there is no difference, but I do understand that even though they are human beings, they will react differently to their situation(s). The military sexual assault programs are not concerned about gender in regards to victims of sexual assault. We provide all our clients with the same services.
QUESTION: What is the number of complaints you might see in a week?
For my specific location, we are a training base. With that said, I can say that we do see more clients than a normal military installation (Air Force specific, can’t speak about the other services). We average about 4 per week; however, our numbers fluctuate.
QUESTION: Are children sexually abuse while parents serve in the Air Force? Do you handle these types of cases? Can you provide a brief procedure for treating children who have been sexually abused in the service?
My office specifically only handles adult sexual assault situations. We have an organization called Family Advocacy who handle domestic violence, marital rape, and child abuse, to name a few. We are not allowed to handle those issues. However, any person that comes into our office will never be told “no,” but we’ll have to explain to them our limitations and refer them to someone else if necessary.
QUESTION: I don’t suspect the types of sexual assault are any different in the Military than in the general public. But can you shed light on the kinds of sexual assault experienced within the Armed Forces?
The military community is no different than colleges and universities. We have sexual assaults that range from date rape to hazing rituals (similar to what you see in fraternities/sororities or team sports). The only difference that I see between the general public and the Military is that we take all complaints of sexual assault/harassment seriously. Anything as small as a forced kiss to rape regardless of gender, relationship, or sexual orientation is taken seriously and investigated if a person decides not to keep their situation confidential. As a victim services team, we have the ability to take confidential complaints from military members and civilians who work for the Military.
In the military, we have two types of reporting options – Restricted and Unrestricted
Restricted reporting is a confidential report between the client, our office staff and medical personnel (if they decide to obtain those services). This gives the victim time to get the care they need and decide whether they want the report to warrant and investigation (i.e. Unrestricted report).
Unrestricted Reporting involves all the same services as the restricted report but initiates an investigation and they receive support from their chain of command (on a need to know basis).
QUESTION: Do you know if the incidents of sexual assault have increased or decreased in the Military?
Honestly, I really have no idea. To be more honest, I’m not concerned about the increase or decrease in reporting. One sexual assault in the Military (and also the general public) affects all of us. The difference is when it affects the military culture, it destroys it from the inside because of the unique mission of the Military. We talk about the U.S. military and how mighty it is. And I have to agree we have a great history, but we should be mighty enough in being able to stop sexual assault. I know that sounds like a “perfect” world, but we should all do what we can to get there (whether in the general public and/or the Military).
QUESTION: How you got involved in in the fight against sexual assault?
I first began with this program in 2006 while in military service. At first, I didn’t understand it much, but I knew it was a good vehicle to help others which is what I love doing. So honestly I didn’t take it seriously at first. During my training to become a volunteer victim advocate, I saw a video documentary titled “Finding Angela Shelton.” In this video, Angela is traveling in an R.V. nationwide looking for other people with her same name and interviewing them to hear their stories. I don’t remember the number of Angela Shelton’s she found, but at least all the ones she did find were sexual assault survivors like her. At the end of the video, Angela confronts her father who happened to be the person who violated her (and her brother) to tell him about what she experienced. She decided to do this on Father’s Day. Her father denied all wrongdoing. Afterward, Angela went back inside the R.V. and was extremely upset, emotional, and shocked about how her father denied his behavior. The emotions she shared hurt me to my core. It was during this video that I decided (without knowing it) that I found my calling.
QUESTION: Why do you stay?
Because it’s the right thing to do. I love what I do, but I hate that it has to be done.
QUESTION: Do you feel you are making a difference?
Yes and no. Yes, because I have to ability to change someone’s life after they sometimes feel like they have lost their way because their power was taken away from them. They are always grateful that I’ve empowered them to survive and thrive. No, because I sometimes have the opportunity to educate military community members and leaders about sexual assault prevention and response. The motivating message I always give is that this shouldn’t be happening to begin with. When I educate, I’m all about prevention (I touch on response). I do what I can to motivate others not to even think about committing this behavior. Unfortunately, I can only bring a horse to the water. I can’t make it drink it. And when that happens, I have to respond (if the survivor decides to come to me at all). Regardless, I always believe that one person can make a difference. This is why I do what I do.
All questions or comments about this interview will be forwarded to Jeffrey L. Romero.
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.