It may be just a candle in a sand-filled bag, but to a victim of domestic violence, that candle can help to light the way out of a dim situation – through Womanspace’s annual Communities of Light domestic violence awareness campaign.
Womanspace, which helps victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, sells luminary kits – candles, paper bags and sand – to raise awareness of those issues, which affect men as well as women and children.
Each luminary kit contains six candles and costs $10. In the Hopewell Valley, luminary kits can be purchased at Chance on Main, 34 S. Main St., Pennington, and at Pennington Quality Market, 25 Route 31, Pennington.
Communities of Light, which is also Womanspace’s signature fundraising event, will culminate on Dec. 3 when households across Mercer County place candles in the sand-filled bags and put them out in front of their homes.
Dozens of Womanspace supporters gathered recently to kick off the 17th annual Communities of Light campaign and fundraiser, and to recognize Pam Mount as the honorary chair of this year’s campaign. Mount is the co-owner of Terhune Orchards, Lawrence Township.
Patricia Hart, the executive director of the Lawrence Township-based organization, said raising awareness of domestic violence is becoming more important than ever, and the Communities of Light campaign is one way to do so.
“Communities of Light is intended to raise questions. What are luminaries? What do they stand for? What is Womanspace? All of those questions help raise awareness. That is our goal,” Hart said.
“Everyone deserves to live in a house that is peaceful,” Hart said, paraphrasing the Communities of Light slogan of “Peace begins at home.”
Municipal leaders are key to the Communities of Light campaign, she said. When municipal officials light candles in the luminary kits, it lets victims know they are not alone. It lessens their isolation and gives them hope, she said.
Hart pointed to the Domestic Violence Victim Response Team, which is a cooperative effort between Womanspace, Mercer County police departments, and volunteers who serve on the Domestic Violence Victim Response Team.
Volunteers undergo 80 hours of training that prepares them to help victims. Municipal police departments call on the Domestic Violence Victim Response Team to meet the victims at police headquarters to provide information and support at the time of a reported incident.
Mount, the honorary chair, said she has undergone training for the Domestic Violence Victim Response Team, adding that “I felt it was something we all could do. Reach out to our neighbors. Right here in Lawrence, they will know there is a safe haven.”
“Some of us are lucky enough not to need Womanspace. It’s not just the obvious bruise. There is lots more we have to deal with. You have to remember the children. It is so critical the children have a safe place to grow up,” Mount said.
Mount said she thinks that Dec. 3, when the luminary kits will be lighted, will be “a great night. People will learn a little bit more about the resources Womanspace offers.”