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Princeton residents encouraged to place luminarias along driveways in honor of victims of domestic violence

Seeking to shine a light on domestic violence, Princeton officials are encouraging residents to buy luminary kits to place along their driveways and sidewalks Dec. 7 at dusk in support of Womanspace’s annual Communities of Light project.

Mayor Liz Lempert issued a proclamation declaring Dec. 7 as “Communities of Light Day” at the Princeton Council’s Nov. 16 meeting. The proclamation honors the nonprofit group on its many accomplishments and also “commends Womanspace for its efforts to bring an end to the cycle of interpersonal violence imposed on women, children and men.”

“Womanspace, founded in 1977,¬† has demonstrated a unique ability to provide comfort, support services, crisis intervention and safety to women who are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence,” according to the mayor’s proclamation.

Communities of Light is the signature fundraiser for Womanspace, which is based in Lawrence Township. The luminary kit, which contains six candles, six paper bags and sand, costs $10. A virtual luminary kit also is available at a cost of $10.

A complete list of stores where the luminary kits may be purchased is available at Womanspace’s website at www.womanspace.org.

The goal of Communities of Light, which is also taking place in towns across Mercer County Dec. 7, is to raise public awareness of domestic violence and the availability of counseling and other resources for victims through Womanspace.

Those resources include emergency housing in a confidential location for victims of domestic violence, as well as a Domestic Violence Victims Response Team, which meets with victims at municipal police departments on request. The trained volunteers provide support and resources for victims.

Similar services are provided to victims of sexual assault through the Sexual Assault Support Services Advocates program, also staffed by trained volunteers. A volunteer may accompany a victim to the hospital, for example.

Womanspace also offers counseling for victims on a family, group or individual basis. The nonprofit group also helps to guide victims  through the restraining order process Рwhich keeps abusers away from victims Рin Mercer County Family Court.

Womanspace has its roots in the Mercer County Commission on the Status of Women, which was created in 1976. During the initial public meetings, the issue of domestic violence quickly came to the forefront.

As a result of those meetings, a proposal was developed to provide services to women in crisis. The effort was spearheaded by the late Barbara Boggs Sigmund, who was serving on the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders. She later became the mayor of the former Princeton Borough.

Sigmund, who is considered to be the founder of Womanspace, signed the original certificate of incorporation for the group in 1977, along with co-signers Debora Metzger, Mary Ann Cannon, Ellen Belknap and Valorie Caffee.

Since its founding 43 years ago, Womanspace has helped more than 89,000 women, 15,000 children and 6,500 men. It has also assisted more than 290,000 hotline callers.

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