Communities of Light raises awareness for domestic violence victims

Womanspace, a Mercer County non-profit aimed to support victims of domestic violence regardless of age, race or gender, held its 11th annual Communities of Light vigil at City Hall last night. In Trenton, domestic violence is believed to be behind two homicides this year. On Nov. 16, Ruschell Fireall was allegedly killed by William Marshall, a man whom Fireall had taken out a restraining order against and Courtney Levine was allegedly killed by David Noncent after intervening in a altercation between his sister and Noncent, her boyfriend.

“We feel it whenever there is a domestic homicide,” Patricia Hart, the director of Womanspace said. “We wonder what we could have done to help.”

The vigil was held not just for those who have been lost to domestic violence, but for those who may still be struggling with the issue. And not just in Trenton, but across Mercer County and the state.

“The city is not immune to domestic violence,” Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson said. “It’s not just one person beating up their partner, we’ve found that 30 to 40 percent of kids witness this and it’s teaching them the wrong thing.”

At the vigil, luminaries that were sold with the proceeds going to Womanspace, were lit along the steps of City Hall. Hart encouraged people who purchased luminaries to display them elsewhere for victims to see.

“The luminaries send a light of hope to let them know that their neighbors support them,” Hart said. “If a victim sees them, they can come forward and not be embarrassed about it, they don’t need to be scared.”

Luminaries also were lit by three of Fireall’s friends along the 500 block of East State Street in remembrance of her and all other victims of domestic violence. Fireall’s death motivated Sylvia Sapp, a friend of Fireall’s, to volunteer with Womanspace.

“It’s what pushed me to volunteer, it felt like it was one of my relatives,” Sapp said. “I’ve encountered some of the same situations.”

“We have a tendency that we can’t live without that person, but when you leave, that’s when you really become free,” she added.

Friends referred to Fireall as “Shelly” when speaking of her, describing her as a fun-filled and spiritual individual.

“Her funeral was packed, that outpouring of love for her really spoke to her character,” Dora Jones, a friend who is considering volunteering with Womanspace, said. “This just hit to close to home, like it was right in my living room.”

For confidential information or assistance, victims or their families can contact the Mercer County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at (609) 394-9000.

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