Communities of Light, which is Womanspace’s signature fundraising event, will culminate at dusk Dec. 5 when households throughout Mercer County place luminaries along their driveways and sidewalks.
Luminaries are candles placed in sand-filled bags, whose purpose is to shed light on the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Proceeds from the sale of luminary kits will be used to fund vital services for the victims.
Luminary kits, which contain six candles, six paper bags and sand, cost $10. A list of stores where they may be purchased is available at www.womanspace.org. Kits also may be purchased online.
Womanspace, which is a nonprofit organization based in Lawrence Township, offers counseling and other resources for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Those resources include emergency housing on a confidential location for victims of domestic violence, as well as domestic violence victim response teams. The teams meet with victims at municipal police departments, at the victim’s request. The trained volunteers provide support and resources for the victims.
Similar services are provided to victims of sexual assault through the Sexual Assault Support Advocates program, also staffed by trained volunteers. They may accompany the victim to the hospital emergency room.
Since the mid-1990s, police departments have been required to have a domestic violence victims response team, Womanspace officials said.
The volunteer members receive 40 hours of training in domestic violence and 40 hours of training in sexual assault. They offer support and guidance to victims.
When a victim calls the local police department for help, the dispatcher alerts the domestic violence victims response team. While police are investigating the incident, a volunteer will meet with the victim and serve as an advocate, officials said.
Womanspace offers counseling for victims on a family, group or individual basis, officials said. The nonprofit group 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. During the initial public meetings, the issue of domestic violence came to the forefront, according to www.womanspace.org.
The meetings resulted in a proposal 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). 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 in 1977, along with co-signers Deborah Metzger, Mary Ann Cannon, Ellen Belknap and Valorie Caffee.
Since its founding 45 years ago, Womanspace has helped more than 110,1443 women, 16,442 children and 7,567 men who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. It has assisted 308,446 hotline callers since 1977, according to Womanspace officials.