Lawrence Township officials ‘shine a light’ on domestic violence; declare Dec. 5 as Communities of Light Day

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Aiming to “shine a light” on domestic violence, Lawrence Township officials are urging residents to buy luminary candle kits to place along their driveways and sidewalks at dusk Dec. 5 in support of Womanspace’s annual Communities of Light project.

Mayor John Ryan issued a proclamation declaring Dec. 5 as “Communities of Light Day” at the Lawrence Township Council’s Nov. 1 meeting.¬†Communities of Light is Womanspace’s signature fundraiser.

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“Womanspace, in the belief that ‘peace begins at home,’ has asked the Mercer County community to join them in their struggle against violence toward [women, children, and men] by participating in their annual Communities of Light project,” according to the proclamation.

The proclamation urges “each and every household to demonstrate their support for the concept of peace begins at home” by placing luminaries along their driveways and sidewalks as a visible symbol of that support.

“Lawrence Township commends Womanspace for their efforts to bring an end to the cycle of interpersonal violence imposed on women, children and men. The proceeds from Communities of Light 2022 will be used to fund vital services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking,” the proclamation said.

Those vital services include emergency housing in a confidential location for victims of domestic violence, as well as domestic violence victim response teams, Womanspace officials said. The teams meet with victims at municipal police departments, at the victim’s request. The trained volunteers provide support and resources for the victim.

Similar services are provided to victims of sexual assault through the Sexual Assault Support Advocates program, also staffed by trained volunteers, officials said. They may help by accompanying the victim to the hospital emergency room.

Since the mid-1990s, police departments have been required to have a domestic violence victim response team. When a victim calls the police department for help, the dispatcher alerts the domestic violence victim response team. While police are investigating the incident, a volunteer will meet with the victim serving as an advocate, officials said.

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

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

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 (now known as the Mercer County Board of Commissioners).

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

Since 1977, Womanspace has helped more than 110,143 women, 16,442 children and 7,567 men who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. It has assisted more than 308,446 hotline callers over the last 45 years, officials said.

A list of businesses that sell the Communities of Light luminary kits is available at www.womanspace.org. Kits may also be purchased online.

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