The local nonprofit aims to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to send a message that ‘peace begins at home.’
Meaghan Haugh

Though the sun began to dip early one recent October evening, there was plenty of light shining on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus, where more than 90 white bags with candles lined the steps of the Bart Luedeke Center. Inside the Cavalla Room, messages about light as a symbol of hope were shared by those who attended the launch of Womanspace’s 10th annual  Communities of Light campaign.

This year, the nonprofit organization selected Rider President Mordechai Rozanski as its honorary chair for its annual Communities of Light, where individuals light luminarias in order to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. This year’s Communities of Light will culminate with a countywide lighting of luminarias on Monday, December 12.

Womanspace is a leading nonprofit agency in based in Mercer County that provides a comprehensive array of services to individuals and families impacted by domestic and sexual violence and dedicated to improving the quality of life for women and their families.

The launch reception was held during Rider’s Unity Days on October 25, in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The evening featured an address by Patricia Hart, executive director of Womanspace, messages from University officials and Womanspace staff members, a video and performances by Rider students.

“Communities of Light sends the message to every survivor of domestic violence that they are not alone. Everyone is supporting them. They don’t have to live in the dark or isolation,” Hart said. “It sends a message to survivors and raises awareness of Womanspace. Sexual violence and domestic violence is not OK in our community.”

Members of the Rider Dance Ensemble performed a modern dance, choreographed by Angela Romansky, a junior Journalism and English dual major and vice president of the ensemble. Romansky said the number, Just the Way You Are, was dedicated to anyone who has ever been put down.

“The dance’s message is that I think you are beautiful the way you are,” Romansky said. “I thought it fit in well with the event.”

The event also featured the display, Baring Our Souls, which included a collection of shoes decorated by domestic violence survivors in order to tell their own stories and move toward healing.

Carolynne Lewis-Arévalo, a senior Psychology major and a trained volunteer for the Womanspace Domestic Violence Victim Response Teams, shared her own story of leaving her abusive husband. Lewis-Arévalo said many victims feel ashamed to seek help.

“It’s not themselves, but those abusing them who should feel ashamed,” she said. “Women in crisis don’t need to be judged.”

Dr. Anthony Campbell, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students at Rider, shared a number of statistics and misconceptions about domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Womanspace’s Communities of Light serves to shine a revealing light on this societal plague that is domestic violence and sexual assault. In order for ‘Peace to Begin at Home’ we must ensure that everyone in the home experiences their own personal power and self worth," Campbell said. “No longer should we be frightened by the personal and powerful light that shines within all of us. As South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela said, we will let our light shine so that others will give themselves permission to let their light shine as well.”