Throughout its 25 years, Appriss has prided itself on attracting, recruiting, and retaining highly talented, motivated, and impassioned individuals from across the country and empowering them to succeed.
This is something that makes Appriss—and VINE—very special. Appriss, through VINE, attracts a certain employee base. Former law enforcement officials, teachers, victim advocates, attorneys, entrepreneurs, and many victims and survivors themselves are drawn to Appriss’ culture and mission of providing knowledge for good—which translates directly into peace of mind for victims and their families. As is echoed throughout the Appriss halls, employees truly understand that they are making a significant difference in the lives of those who depend on VINE to be an important resource for their safety network. One of the main tenets of the VINE service is its world-class call center: the CustomerFirst Center, or the “CFC.” The CFC is operational 24/7/365 and is staffed by 80 professionals who provide user support to victims, survivors, and concerned citizens who call in from across the nation.
CFC operators are referred to as VINE Service Representatives (“VSRs”). VSRs are trained in victim sensitivity and other relevant areas of focus, such as secondary trauma and crisis management. VSRs are trained by the Mary Byron Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of intimate partner violence.
Appriss VSRs are truly passionate and committed to their work, assisting victims and survivors, often in a time of crisis. They are the “front lines of VINE” and hold their positions with honor and grace. One such VSR is agent Lacey Rieber. Lacey recently appeared on “The Mend,” a podcast moderated by stalking survivor Anna Nasset, designed to connect victims and survivors of crime with the services, organizations, and resources that help support them. Lacey shared her personal and professional experiences with VINE and the impact that it makes in the lives of victims and survivors.
One such experience involved a call into the CFC by a woman in desperate need of information, compassion, and peace. She was routed– at random–to Lacey, and the events that would follow would change both women’s lives forever.
I first “met” Lorrie* a little over four years ago. I was relatively new to “the floor”—or the hub of the call center. That August day started out like most. I was getting used to my new role at the call center, learning and growing with each call. I got an alert that a call was coming in, so I put on my headset and answered. A woman—a very distraught woman was on the other end of the line. She made it very clear that she would only speak to female agent. She was clearly traumatized, and it was heartbreaking.
She came to me literally screaming for help. I knew she wasn’t lashing out at me, personally. I knew this behavior came from real, raw fear. It took me almost 30 minutes to calm her enough to have a fluid conversation—for her to give me the information I needed to begin to help her. This was the start of our years-long journey.
Lorrie had become the target of gang-related violence. She lived in a neighborhood known for its criminal and drug-related activity. She reported some suspicious activity to the police, not knowing who exactly the individuals were and what they were capable of. The associated gang members somehow found out who had reported them, and that is where everything started.
She became a pawn in a sick, terrifying game. She was used as bait for gang initiations. In the year prior to our call, she had been stalked, kidnapped, and tortured by these individuals–whom she did not know… It was like something out of a horror movie. They ultimately tried to kill her by running her down in their vehicle as she walked through the middle of town in broad daylight. After this attempted murder, police were able to make an arrest.
“Peace is the most powerful gift you can give a person. We are able to give that gift to hundreds of people a day, one phone call at a time. I am honored and humbled to be part of the team that makes it all possible.” -Lacey Rieber, Appriss VSR
When she first called me she had no information. She only knew the name the offender gave to police at the scene—which, it turned out, was not his actual name. The daughter of a law enforcement officer, myself, I was just drawn to her. I was committed to helping her figure out the best and quickest way to find the information she needed to be safe and protected.
I had to determine what agency was responsible for writing the police report, as well as what agency was holding the people in the car that tried to harm her. They were two different agencies. I gave her some telephone numbers to call so that she could get copies of the report and find out some names. I helped her write down questions she would need to ask to get registered for notifications. I set the expectation that she would probably have to speak to a male officer, and I helped her understand that this was the first step in advocating for herself. She had to be her biggest advocate, and VINE was going to help her do that.
After several weeks, she finally obtained the police report, complete with the offenders’ names. That’s when we were able to get her
registered on VINE and start a whole new phase in her process. VINE became her safe space—I became her safe space.
Lorrie and I remained connected over the next few years. Agencies kept moving the offender around, which scared her. We aren’t sure why he was moved so often, other than one jail I called saying he “wasn’t manageable.” She assumed it was because of his gang affiliation and rank. At one point they even mistakenly released him, and he tried to kill her on Christmas Eve.
Lorrie wouldn’t go to court when his trial began, so his case was almost dropped. That was a long call! I begged her to keep fighting. I just kept pushing strength and resources to her on every single call, and finally she talked to a victim advocate who started going to court with her. She called me before every appearance. I would say a prayer with her and remind her she was strong and brave. We both knew that this was bigger than her. The result of her bravery was going to impact other lives.
I was able to talk to her through his incarceration, the trial, and his eventual move to ICE, and finally, his deportation trial. I will never forget the day she called in and said, “Lacey, we won!”
That was the first time in my life I physically heard the sound of relief come through the phone.
Lorrie’s offender was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in prison. And although convicted and sentenced on American soil, he was being deported to his home country to face murder (and other) charges there.
I cried and celebrated with her. But mostly, I celebrated her. I kept telling her how proud I was of her and how courageous she had been. I have never been so scared for a person I’d never met. I’ve never felt so much pride for a person I’ve never met. She still doesn’t know how strong she is.
She made me stronger, too. We went on a journey together. I prayed for her when I went to bed at night and willed her my own strength on every phone call. Our last conversation was completely different than our first, but both have significantly changed my life.
Not every caller is a Lorrie, but every caller is affected in some way. I’m very conscious of that, and I think that is why I love this job. It fills me with purpose to be able to provide this invaluable gift to a population that so desperately needs and deserves it.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.