The Safe Center LI helps abuse victims get back on their feet
Victims of abuse need a place where they can recover and get back to living as normal a life as they can possibly live. The Safe Center provides a pathway to that recovery.
Located at 15 Grumman Rd. West in Bethpage, the facility came to fruition when the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV)and the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect (CCAN), nonprofit agencies that have been running for more than 30 years, began working together in one facility in 2010. The groups then decided to rebrand and fully merge in 2014, naming themselves The Safe Center. Cynthia Scott, executive director at the center who served in the same role at the CCAN prior to the merger, said this move made a lot of sense.
“Often, we would know that the parents who were bringing children in for interviews and services because of sex abuse had their own trauma history, which was often history that was not addressed,” Scott said. “[The two coalitions] made a decision that we should really create a comprehensive service that’s set up for victims of interpersonal violence.”
Over the past six years, the center has provided a plethora of free and confidential services to protect and help victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, child abuse and human trafficking. One of their major aspects is that they have the only shelter for domestic violence victims in Nassau County. Currently, the safe house has 17 beds, where victims can stay for up to 90 days, with two 90-day extensions if needed.
“For some people, the first month or so is just getting settled down, letting the dust settle and allowing themselves some time to heal,” Safe Center Director Terray Gregoretti said. “But others come to us with their lives generally intact. It varies from person to person, but while they are there, advocates are there to help them with what they need.”
The center is able to provide legal services to those who may need consultation, from custody cases to immigration, with direct representation available on a limited basis. The facility also houses the Nassau County Child Advocacy Center, which serves as a safe haven for children to talk to law enforcement and child protective partners who work in house. This includes two units from Child Protective Services, an assistant district attorney who handles the oversight of these kinds of cases, a medical service that provides the nonemergency exams on the children and, perhaps most prominently, the entire Special Victims Squad of the Nassau County Police Department.
“The partnership between Nassau County Police and The Safe Center is vital to ensuring the safety and healing of victims of interpersonal violence,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in a statement. “Through this partnership, our goal is to ensure victims are connected with services in the immediate aftermath of abuse. The Special Victims Squad being co-located at The Safe Center ensures a timely response and enhances the successful investigation and prosecution of these cases.”
A big part of the agency is also the education department, which serves as its “prevention arm.” The department offers opportunities for people to learn about abuse and train in how to handle and help someone in an abusive situation. It uses research that is tailored to whoever the educator is speaking to, from individuals to community organizations and even universities. They also handle professional training which includes educating social workers, mental health counselors, new police recruits and more.
Many victim stories stand out over the years. One such story involves a woman who had her face put through a glass window, which tore off a part of her nose. The center was able to have a plastic surgeon, who happened to be on the agency’s board, available to help repair the victim’s nose at no expense to her. The victim now works with the center to speak out about her experiences.
“One of the things she says all the time is that The Safe Center loved her before she could love herself,” Scott said.
Volunteers are a big part of the agency, from pro bono attorneys to individuals known as SAFER (Survivors Advocate For Emergency Response) advocates, who are on call to visit victims at local hospitals and provide support for them. There are also volunteer trainers for the center’s Enough Abuse Campaign, who are trained to deliver educational presentations that focus on the warning signs that may suggest a child has been abused or that an adult is a danger to a child.
The Safe Center has a 24/7 hotline for victims at 516-542-0404 where they can get help or get information on the agency. Visit www.tscli.org for more information on the agency, how to donate and how to volunteer.