Past the twists and turns of Grumman Rd., in Bethpage, lies The Safe Center LI, Inc., a nonprofit organization that offers support and advice to victims of sexual, domestic and child abuse. Elizabeth Osowiecki, one of the organization’s education coordinators and a Franklin Square native, said that The Safe Center is Long Island’s most helpful yet hidden resource.
“You don’t have to be alone when you’re a victim,” Osowiecki said. “The Safe Center is always here.” Osowiecki herself is a survivor of sexual abuse.
In college, she studied journalism and reported on sexual assault cases, interpersonal violence and healthy relationships. She went on to volunteer at The Safe Center, working on the hotline and coordinating with local hospital’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) program. SANE makes nurses specializing in trauma available to survivors of sexual assault. Eventually, Osowiecki was offered a full-time position as an education coordinator in 2016.
“I kept asking for a position, and my passion must have shone through,” Osowiecki said.
As an education coordinator, Osowiecki teaches high school students in Nassau County about healthy relationships, consent and bystander intervention. She also facilitates trainings for professionals and students about intimate partner and child abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking. Diane Harvey, the associate director of education at The Safe Center, said the center has received continued requests from schools and organizations after the start of the #MeToo movement.
“People are curious about what it is all about, and survivors are feeling empowered to speak out,” Harvey said. “It is a great opportunity to educate.”
While Osowiecki feels that the movement has had some mixed reactions among survivors, she agrees that it helps demonstrate the strength of those who come forward and offers them a support system. In order to follow up on the #MeToo movement, The Safe Center will be joining the “Start By Believing” social media campaign created by End Violence Against Women International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the criminal justice response to sexual assault. Harvey said the campaign asks individuals to post pictures and videos of themselves using the hash tag #StartByBelieving as they pledge to believe survivors when they come forward about their assault.
“It’s a way to challenge the social norms of those who normally don’t believe survivors,” Osowiecki explained. “People always have this mentality to initially think that they’re lying.”
Osowiecki and the rest of The Safe Center staff will be taking the “Start By Believing” pledge and sharing their thoughts on why it is important through the center’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. The Safe Center will also be hosting its “Taste that Jazz” fundraising event on April 9 at Eisenhower Park in Westbury. The event features live jazz music from the Morrie Louden Group and Herricks High School along with more than 40 food and beverage vendors. The proceeds will fund The Safe Center’s programs and services for victims of abuse.