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Interview Series: Katie Romanek and the VOICES Committee of the Family Justice Center

Next month we will begin sharing interviews with the visionary leaders committed to the San Joaquin County Family Justice Center. Our unified mission is to work together to help victims on their journey to becoming survivors. We want you to be familiar with the amazing services that will be coming together under one roof to better serve victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, elder abuse, and human trafficking.

An integral part of our team is our VOICES Advisory Committee. On this committee, survivors unite to help us stay focused on our mission of delivering services and support that survivors need; not just what we think a survivor needs. VOICES is a volunteer group of survivors, at least 2-years out of abuse, who have engaged in counseling services, are willing to share their story and help us maintain our focus of relevant and effective services.

This month, we are sharing an interview with the VOICES Committee Chairperson, Katie Romanek. Her name may sound familiar as the story of her abduction became national news over 20 years ago. Katie grew up in Lodi, CA. At 12-years old, Katie was sexually assaulted and kidnapped from her home by a stranger and held for nearly 24-hours. After her televised rescue, she became a national celebrity. This celebrity status, however, did not provide Katie with the support she needed. Soon Katie began smoking and drinking to escape the lasting effects of her trauma. By 8th grade Katie was expelled for drinking in school.

The destructive pattern of drugs and alcohol continued into high school. She dropped out her senior year and moved to Pismo Beach, CA with a man who would become her first domestic violence abuser. After leaving her abuser, Katie’s life seemed to be on track as she found a job at a casino, which would become her “safe haven”. She gained friends who genuinely cared about her and a place she could go when times were tough. Katie’s new lifestyle did not last, as she was fired for failing a drug test after six years. She then found herself homeless, living out of her car with another extremely violent boyfriend. This man would rip out her hair, hit her temples and had her constantly fearing for her life. She reconnected with her family and friends from her “safe haven”. One particular friend offered her a place to stay as long as she stayed sober. Katie seized the opportunity and began the recovery process.

Katie is one of the biggest supporters of the San Joaquin County Family Justice Center. She believes that it will give victims their own "safe haven". Katie believes there is a chain reaction with crime. Katie's abductor was a victim of rape. He told his mother he wanted to find three girls so he could rape and kill them. Katie is a firm believer that if there had been a place like the Family Justice Center when he was abused, he would not have done what he did to Katie, and she wouldn’t have then gone through her struggles. In recent years, she found a therapist who is helping her through her trauma. Katie wants a Family Justice Center so victims will know they have a voice and are not in it alone. “When you start talking about your problems and open up, other people do the same thing and it feels good to talk about it.”

The San Joaquin County Family Justice Center wants to help you find your voice, because YOU matter.

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