Seeking to “shine a light” on domestic violence, Princeton officials are urging residents to buy luminary kits to place along their sidewalks and driveways at dusk Dec. 5 in support of Womanspace’s annual Communities of Light project.
Princeton Mayor Mark Freda issued a proclamation declaring Dec. 5 as “Communities of Light Day” in Princeton at the Princeton Council’s Oct. 24 meeting.
The mayoral proclamation honors the nonprofit group on its 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, men and children] 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 papers bags and sand, costs $10.
A complete list of stores where luminary kits may be purchased is available at www.womanspace.org. Kits may also be purchased online.
The goal of Communities of Light is to raise public awareness of domestic violence and of the availability of counseling and other resources for victims through Womanspace.
The resources include emergency housing in a confidential location for victims of domestic violence, as well as a domestic violence victims response team that meets with victims at municipal police departments at the victim’s request. 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 offers counseling for victims on a family, group or individual basis. The nonprofit group also helps to guide victims through the 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. The issue of domestic violence quickly rose to the forefront during the initial public meetings.
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 County Commissioners).
Sigmund 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 in 1977, along with co-signers Debora Metzger, Mary Ann Cannon, Ellen Belknap and Valorie Caffee.
Since its founding 45 years ago, Womanspace has helped more than 110,143 women, 16,442 children and 7,567 men. It also has assisted more than 308,446 hotline callers since 1977, officials said.