Nassau nonprofits merge to boost services for abuse victims

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Two Nassau nonprofits that focus on child sexual abuse and domestic violence announced Tuesday they have merged in an effort to bolster services for victims.

The Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect will now function as The Safe Center LI, group leaders said at a news conference in Bethpage with County Executive Edward Mangano and District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

The groups, both in existence for more than 30 years, said they had been discussing the merger for a decade. In 2010, both moved their offices to the former Northrop Grumman site to offer a one-stop center for sex abuse and domestic violence victims.

"What we realized immediately was that our families often needed service from both of our agencies," said Sandy Oliva, who formerly headed the domestic violence coalition and now is co-executive director of The Safe Center LI.

Nassau County police special victims squad investigators and a Nassau assistant district attorney also work out of the 24,000-square-foot Bethpage site so abuse victims do not have to travel from agency to agency to make reports.

Rice recalled when she took office in 2006, before the facility opened, victims were "shuttled from building to building talking to nameless person after nameless person ... It was traumitizing to these very vulnerable people.

The nonprofits said they received 7,188 calls last year to their joint confidential hotline -- 6,404 for domestic violence and 784 for rape and sexual assault related trauma, a nearly 10 percent increase from 2012.

The new agency also has submitted a bid to oversee Nassau's sex offender registry, said Cynthia G. Scott, former head of the child abuse coalition and now co-executive director of the Safe Center LI.

Parents for Megan's Law, a Stony Brook nonprofit that works to prevent child sexual abuse, also is bidding on the Nassau contract.

Scott said the group was also working on creating support programs for victims of sex trafficking.

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"Merging has been an investment into our future," Scott said. "It has given us the opportunity to tap into our strengths and our expertise and focus on newer and larger issues requiring our attention."

Mangano lauded the merger, calling the Bethpage site "one of the most comprehensive centers in the nation."

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