An Open Letter to the Volunteers of Operation Safe Escape

I already sent a version of this letter to each of the volunteers with Operation Safe Escape, but I thought it was worth sharing openly as well:

There’s a few things on my mind, and I’d really like to share them with you. I’d also like to hear your thoughts in return, because I sincerely value what you have to say. Hopefully, this message can do both. I apologize in advance, it’s long. But there’s a lot to talk about.

First, I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for helping Operation Safe Escape become what it is today, and I really hope you’re as proud as I am of what we’ve built. None of it could have happened without people like you making it happen.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when no one was doing what we do now, not the way we do it. There were always helpers like you out there, doing what they could to help others, but for the first time we brought them together and created a way where we could do even more good. The results really speak for themselves:

-We’ve helped nearly 3,000 people escape abuse and stay safe after they do, with a 100% success rate
-We’re founding members of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, and our work through the coalition has had a measurable impact on combatting those malicious tools
-Last year, we supplied in excess of 5 million dollars in security services without cost to any survivors
-Our work has been recognized in the news, through our partners in both the advocacy and the tech/security sectors, in the Harvard Tech Spotlight, and so much more

Those are really just a few of the highlights, too. I could go on for hours talking about the impact we’ve had and the number of people that we’ve helped. But I know you already know this, it’s part of why we keep doing what we do. Because we know that we’re helping people- real human beings, men women and children- feel safe and be safe.

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making it possible.

I’d also like to talk a little bit about who we are today and some of the things we’re working on. I think it’s important that all of us know what’s in the works, and maybe even ways you can be a part of it.

Have you seen our mission statement? It’s pretty straightforward- “we’re dedicated to combatting domestic violence and related crimes by providing security and safety tools, resources, and direct assistance to people impacted by domestic violence, their support systems, and institutional organizations such as shelters, safe houses, law enforcement, and social services.” Basically, our mission is to help people survive and escape domestic violence. Maybe we help them directly, maybe we do it by supporting the helpers, but everything we do is working towards that noble goal.

I also have a personal vision that I want to share with you- it’s something that keeps me motivated and I hope it’s the same thing that all of us strive for. I imagine a world where the playing field has been leveled, where abusers no longer believe that they can stay in control by isolating and controlling their victims, and the survivors of abuse all know that someone is on their side; not because they can afford to pay for help, but because we genuinely care. I picture a fundamental change to a legal, regulatory, and enforcement system that is fundamentally broken because it too-often fails to protect the vulnerable population that we serve. I can see a world where people feel safe and empowered to make the choices that are best for them without worrying about how to survive it. I dream of a world that doesn’t need people like us, but until that happens we’re going to be there.

We’re here to make a difference, one that will literally be felt for generations. Maybe we’ll receive accolades and praise for the work we do, or maybe not. Maybe we’ll get recognition, maybe not. But the exponential changes we are privileged to help make is really thanks enough.

That’s who we are. It’s ingrained in our culture. We help because we have the ability do so, and because we sincerely care. It’s been who we are since the beginning, and we’ve never lost sight of that. And we’ve earned the respect of many companies and organizations because of this and our unwavering integrity. We work with people that have had their trust violated by people that were supposed to care about them, but they know they can trust us. It’s trust well-placed.

Finally, I want to make sure to share our values. You may have seen these before, but I think they’re important to read again. They are:
Respect. We will treat our clients, partners, and one another with dignity and the respect they deserve
Professionalism. We will give our clients and partners our very best so they know they’re in good hands
Integrity. We keep our word and will do the right thing legally and morally
Innovation. We will always strive to find cutting-edge solutions to stay ahead of the adversary
Authenticity. As an organization, we are who we say we are. We live our own values hold ourselves accountable
The best people. We recruit and partner with the best processionals in their respective fields (by the way, that’s you)

As an organization, we continue to grow. With so many bright and passionate people, how could we not? Here’s a few things that are in the works.

The first thing that comes to mind is the DV-ISAC (the name’s still pending, so we’ll just call it that for now). If you’re not familiar with the concept, an Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) is a centralized resource for gathering information on threats, and promoting and sharing information between entities. For example, the financial sector has one to talk about threats to banks and the automotive sector has one to talk about improving security as technology advances. Creating the DV-ISAC will finally allow shelters, safe houses, advocacy groups, and law enforcement to work together in a way they haven’t been able to before.

The OSE TOC/SOC, which will allow us to better provide technical support to partner organizations. Right now, shelters and safe houses (for example) have to make a choice when they need to secure a new wireless router or fix a computer issue. If they lack the technical skillset, they can pay someone to fix it or they can buy food and clothes for the residents. By recruiting volunteers to run the help desk, we can help relieve that burden and help them focus on their client’s well-being.

We’re working on putting together a resource kit for partners, bringing them tools, resources, and information that they desperately need. For example, a security control catalog (based on NIST 800-53) tailored to their mission and written for the largely non-security audience that we’re proud to serve. This will allow organizations to consistently apply security processes without “reinventing the wheel” each and every time.

It’s become clear that we need to improve our volunteer intake process to help our volunteers (the lifeblood of what we do) more quickly get oriented to their role and see how they fit into the overall process. Every single person makes a difference, and I realize I haven’t done enough to highlight that. We’re working on a new orientation program that reduce the uncertainty and confusion right out of the gate. This will include a new orientation handbook, an HR packet, and we’ll be introducing a buddy program to pair new volunteers with those that have been around for a while. We’re also putting together training that better addresses our mission. Because what we do is so unique, our training needs to be as well. Here’s the first, which discusses Trauma Informed Care: [redacted]. I’d really love your thoughts.

Finally, we’re also going to be launching a vicarious trauma program to combat compassion fatigue and new volunteer recognition programs.

There’s much more, we’re always working on something, but you can see that there’s a lot going on!

I really hope this can start a conversation, and I invite you to reach out to me directly at any time if you have any thoughts or ideas on how we can do better, or any questions or concerns. You can email me, catch me on teams, or call me at [redacted]. I just want you to know that your thoughts matter to me, and that -you- matter to me.

If you’re free in a few hours (if you can read this far in a few hours, this message was a bit longer than I thought it would be going in), please jump on the team call. I’d love to have you there and hear your ideas.



Chris Cox
Director, Operation Safe Escape