Because of the important and sensitive work that we do, Operation Safe Escape has developed guidelines and best practices when providing services to clients.
Rules and Guidelines:
We’re working with real people who have been the victim of a crime, we must never forget that fact. We will hold ourselves and each other to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism. All volunteers will adhere to the following organization-wide expectations:
- DO NOT take advantage of the vulnerable individuals you interact with. The clients we work with are generally victims or one or more forms of abuse, so do not further victimize them by accepting money, recommending business enterprises that you have a stake in, making sexual advances, or any other act that may cause financial or psychological harm
- Do not discriminate against clients. Abuse doesn’t discriminate and neither do we. Do not treat clients differently based on gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, national origin, race, religion, or any other demographic. If you feel you cannot comfortably work with an individual based on any characteristic, let the triage point of contact or team lead know immediately
- Do not encourage or suggest illegal behavior. For example, do not recommend leaving the country in violation of a court order if you are aware one is in place. Doing so will cause new problems for the client
- Do not discuss client matters outside of protected channels. This doesn’t mean you can’t discuss general concepts that may be related to a case you’re working on, but those discussions will not be tied to real or code names. This is further clarified in the section titled “Protection of Client Data.” Any individual found to intentionally misuse client data for any reason will be removed from the organization and, if a criminal act is known or suspected, referred to law enforcement as appropriate
- Don’t ghost your client. It’s important to stay in contact with your client. They depend on you. If you won’t be available for any length of time, let someone know. If you haven’t heard from your client for a while, check up on them
In addition to the immutable rules listed above, the following guidelines should be considered as you interact with volunteers and clients:
- Treat your fellow volunteers and clients with respect. It’s okay to challenge ideas, but do it with respect
- Defend your ideas, but remember that we’re all working towards the same goal. Ego can not get in the way of supporting clients
- Reach out for help if you need it. If you don’t know an answer, look it up or ask others in the appropriate discussion channels. Do not guess when giving advice to a client
- Be encouraging while being honest. It’s okay to encourage your client and let them know they’re going to be okay, but don’t lie to them
- It’s okay to tell the client “I don’t know” when they ask a question. If it’s an important question, take the time to find the answer or give them the means to get an answer
The clients we work with have often endured very difficult circumstances, and it’s important to be sensitive to that fact. The following best practices will help ensure that your security and safety input may be received without causing undue stress and harm to the client.
- Listen. While our primary focus is on keeping them safe, sometimes just knowing that they’re heard and believed can make a big difference. At the same time, we’re not trained therapists or psychologists and are not properly equipped to provide therapeutic services beyond that. Whenever possible, encourage the client to seek therapy to help work through the trauma they’ve
- Support their autonomy and free agency. Remember that the client makes the final decision in all things, our job is to recommend and suggest solutions while being sensitive to the fact that the client is the one that would have to deal with the outcome. The client may not have been able to make many choices while in an abusive situation, so it’s important that they know we’re on their
- Recognize that sometimes things might not make sense. And that’s okay. When you’re working with clients that may not be as experienced as you are in your area of expertise, you may recognize some things that aren’t possible. It’s important to counter those misconceptions without isolating or embarrassing the client. Understand that sometimes victims of a crime will try to fill in the missing pieces with their own research or reasoning, so that may account for some variances in their
- Be sensitive to their needs, and know that they’re frightened. The client may push back or cast doubt on your ability to help. That’s not personal, but a common outcome of severe abuse and manipulation. Remember that abusers often lie about their abilities, so the victim may believe that the abuser is more skilled or capable than you are. The abuser may even have told their victim that they can do things that aren’t possible, such as “I can immediately hack any computer you use, no matter where you are.” Be patient, and take opportunities to educate them on what can and cannot reasonably be done. You can do this by providing facts and
- Never blame the survivor. That’s what their abuser did. Although it seems counterintuitive, avoid making disparaging comments about the abuser. Given the complex psychological process involved with escaping abuse, they may not be ready to hear those things. Focus on the behavior rather than the
- Don’t underestimate the risk to the survivor, but don’t make it sound worse than it is either. Understand that there is risk and they’re likely to be very aware of it. At the same time, don’t cause further harm by suggesting things that they may not have considered but are highly unlikely. For example, it may be possible to leverage a certain attack against the client’s device, but the attacker would need resources only found with state
- Be aware that certain actions may alert the abuser that they’ve been discovered. For example, removing stalkerware is likely to be detected by the abuser. Ensure that other security measures are in place, if required, to protect the client for escalation or retaliation.