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Women Aware


Bringing resources ‘under one roof’ for survivors of domestic violence

Enbridge and Women Aware partner to move survivors beyond abuse

In New Jersey, Women Aware helps survivors and their children move on from unsafe situations.

“Last year, we served the most individuals we ever have in our 41-year history.”

That’s Women Aware, the leading domestic violence services agency which for more than four decades has served Middlesex County in New Jersey.

With a population of 825,000, the county relies on Women Aware to find placement for people who need to escape an unsafe situation and help them get back on their feet.

“We shelter more than 200 women and children on average per year for anywhere from 30-day stays to 90 days or even more,” says Susan Dyckman, Development Director at Women Aware. “Last year, that number rose to 278.”

During the pandemic, Women Aware expanded its shelter capacities by starting a hotel placement program, meaning that staff could still provide case management services until an opportunity to move individuals into safe housing emerged.

“It’s really amazing that, throughout the entire pandemic, Women Aware did not have to close our doors,” says Catherine Cintron, Director of Grants and Compliance at Women Aware. “Because we have always been committed to cross-training our staff, we could adapt staffing and expand shelter capacity to serve more clients than ever before.”

Cross-training was key for Women Aware, as staff who might normally spend their time in legal advocacy were able to rotate into roles such as a hotline operator when the situation called for it.

In 2021, Enbridge donated $15,000 to Women Aware as part of our commitment to help build sustainable communities near our operations.. The funding enables Women Aware to meet 2023 goals that include sheltering 215 women and children, answering 6,000 hotline calls and providing non-residential services to 1,800 victims.

In addition to the daily services offered by Women Aware, the organization puts on the Moving Beyond Abuse 5K & Charity Walk during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Enbridge provided a $5,000 grant in 2022 to help put on this event that connects Women Aware with the community.

The overarching vision for Women Aware this year is to continue to build upon an established facility that brings all services under one roof.

“We opened the doors of the Family Justice Center in late 2020, where the goal is to bring all resources necessary for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children under one roof,” says Dyckman.

The goal is to be as seamless as possible—particularly for individuals in times of urgent need.

“A survivor can walk in, no appointment necessary, and then an intake process occurs where a trained advocate meets with a survivor to hear their story and connect them to all necessary resources.”

And once a survivor moves through the shelter and resources and has landed back on their feet, they’ll often stay in touch.

“Often our client services colleagues will share survivor success stories,” says Dyckman. “To hear where the survivor was, and how far they have come, is a truly overwhelming feeling.”

(PHOTO: From left, Women Aware’s Catherine Cintron, Melinda Clugsten, Josephine Mingione, Maria Betanzos and Maliha Janjua sport jeans at Denim Day, an international movement to “wear jeans with a purpose,” stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault, and promote awareness and education.)

@enbridge Blog Post January 17, 2023

Mary Kay Ash Foundation Awards Women Aware $20,000 Grant

Giving Back


Published December 26, 2022 at 1:42 AM

Last Updated December 26, 2022 at 8:35 AM

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Women Aware, a city-based, state-designated lead domestic violence agency for Middlesex County that has been saving lives for 40 years, has received a $20,000 grant from the Mary Kay Ash Foundation.

The grant from the foundation, which supports the ending of domestic violence and other issues impacting women, comes at a crucial time.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, more than 72,000 adult and child victims receive domestic violence services across the United States in just one day. Unfortunately, in the same period of time, more than 11,000 requests for services are unmet due to a lack of resources.

In 2022, Women Aware is on track to serve the most clients in agency history.

Women Aware focuses on practical skills while offering intensive case management, including safety planning, counseling, housing assistance, life skills, parenting education, creative arts therapy for children, advocacy, health education and screening and translation services. All services are free and confidential.

Women Aware also offers an array of services that include a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, support groups, children’s trauma therapy programs, legal advocacy, and supportive housing.

Each year, Women Aware moves approximately 2,000 survivors beyond abuse.

“We are deeply grateful for the Mary Kay Ash Foundation’s generous support for survivors of domestic violence in Middlesex County,” stated Women Aware CEO Phyllis Yonta. “The Foundation’s partnership makes it possible for our advocates to provide safe shelter for survivors and their children, and support them with the services and resources necessary to build independent lives free of abuse.”

This year, more than 147,000 women and their families will receive domestic violence support services through the 50 agencies awarded grants by the Mary Kay Ash Foundation.

The Foundation is committed to funding the life-saving work of women’s shelters, and the annual shelter grant program has helped critical financial needs including emergency shelter, transitional housing, counseling and legal aid. All of these resources support women and children as they seek refuge and relief on their journey to an abuse-free life.

This year, more than 1,100 organizations applied for the Mary Kay Ash Foundation shelter grants.

“At Mary Kay, we believe in helping women improve their circumstances and live their best lives,” said Foundation Board of Directors Michael Lunceford. “One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and it is our responsibility to support the women’s shelters that aid these survivors. At the heart of the Foundation’s work is the shelter grant program which is actively supported by our Independent Beauty Consultants. We’re proud that our commitment makes such a powerful impact in local communities and in the lives of domestic violence survivors across the country.”

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, call Women Aware’s free 24/7 hotline at 732-249-4504 or toll-free at 833-249-4504.

MyCentralJersey.com Spotlights Women Aware

Mission and impact featured in annual Needy Cases profile


Needy Cases 2022: Women Aware coordinates efforts to combat domestic violence

Cheryl Makin


Closing doors is never an option for Women Aware.

Throughout the pandemic, the nearly 50-year-old nonprofit organization remained open − and saw its numbers rise to record amounts.

“Survivors of domestic violence count on us to be here,” said Phyllis Yonta, Women Aware’s CEO. “Women Aware’s greatest challenge continues to be answering survivors’ needs for shelter, safety planning and comprehensive services in the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis. It is a testament to our dedicated professional staff that our 24/7 hotline and emergency shelter remained open through the pandemic.”

Women Aware has been a guiding light for those suffering from domestic abuse. The state-designated lead domestic violence agency for Middlesex County, Women Aware moves approximately 2,000 survivors beyond abuse each year, said Susan M. Dyckman, development director.

Despite the challenges, Women Aware has continued to operate the only 24-hour domestic violence emergency shelter in the second most populous county in the state.

“Our trained, trauma-informed professional staff are experts when it comes to serving survivors, but it takes an entire community to save lives,” Dyckman said.

Founded in the 1970s, Women Aware started by providing shelter services to women seeking safety from domestic violence. When the organization became incorporated in 1981, the nonprofit began offering additional services. Today, the organization offers shelter along with legal advocacy, counseling, community outreach, supportive housing, liaisons in child protective services, community education and a creative art therapy program for children.

In 2021, the organization served 2,195 survivors of domestic violence, including 176 children. Women Aware sheltered 250 women and children, which was 35% more than in 2020 – the most in the history of the agency. The organization provided 11,440 bed nights − 49% more than in 2020 − and answered 7,278 hotline calls, a 14% rise from 2020.

Last year, Women Aware expanded shelter capacity through a hotel placement program to accommodate victims’ need for emergency shelter, spoke with callers in 10 different languages, provided legal advocacy for 1,137 clients − up 38% from 2020 − and increased individual, group and family therapy sessions by 23% in the Peace: A Learned Solution (PALS) program.

Women Aware also hosted and participated in court intervention, accompaniment and preparation sessions as well as case management, legal clinics and workshops.

Women Aware is on pace to exceed these numbers in 2022, Dyckman said.

A major project in the next year is the Middlesex County Family Justice Center (FJC). As the lead agency for this ground-breaking initiative, Women Aware will be laying the foundation for a coordinated community response to domestic violence and sexual assault.

The goal of the FJC is to reduce domestic violence homicides and increase the safety and confidentiality of domestic violence survivors and their children in collaboration with co-located victim services agencies. The FJC will help survivors and their families get the resources and support they need at one location.

“Working collaboratively, in one space, under the umbrella of the Family Justice Center, our purpose is to radically improve family safety as well as offender accountability,” Yonta said.

Last year, Women Aware was awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Violence Against Women. This helped to provide funding for the FJC, Dyckman said

This effort is partnership with the Middlesex County Office of Human Services, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, Middlesex County Center for Empowerment, Central Jersey Legal Services, Jewish Family Services, American Friends Service Committee, Middlesex County Board of Social Services, New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Coming Home of Middlesex County, Manavi, Town Clock Community Development Corporation, A Partnership for Change and Dress for Success Central Jersey.

The FJC is open for walk-ins from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 100 Bayard St. (fourth floor) in New Brunswick.

Dyckman said Women Aware relies on community support to fund and fulfill its mission to provide free and confidential services to survivors moving beyond abuse.

“We are grateful to the individuals, community organizations, businesses, foundations, government funders and service providers who support our mission to promote the safety and self-sufficiency of individuals and families affected by domestic violence in Middlesex County,” Dyckman said. “Individual financial donations are used where most needed and are always welcome.”

The Woman Aware annual holiday gift program will be comprised of gift cards only. Gift cards give victims of domestic violence some financial independence, helping them purchase what they need for themselves and their children, Dyckman said.

Suggested gift cards include Visa, Mastercard, Uber, Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreen’s, ShopRite, Stop & Shop, Amazon and gas cards. Gift cards can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday at 250 Livingston Ave. in New Brunswick. You can call 732-249-4900 ext. 0428 before stopping by or with any questions. Gift cards also can be mailed to Women Aware at 250 Livingston Ave. New Brunswick, NJ 08901.

For more information about Women Aware go to womenaware.net or call the free 24-hour hotline at 732-249-4504 or toll-free at 833-249-4504. If it is too dangerous for a victim to reach out directly, a trusted family member or friend can call the hotline. The statewide hotline also is available at 800-572-SAFE (7233).

Women Aware COO Maria Betanzos Joins Global 16 Days Campaign Panel at Rutgers Douglass College

Message from New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs


NJSFWC Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness and Prevention

Chairman, Dawn Pogosaew
“It is with a heartfelt thank you that this Chairman writes this article to the many wonderful and incredible students from the Knowledge and Power and Global Village that attended the Global 16 Days Campaign Panel discussion on Monday, November 21st.

The attendees raised $290.00 and $100.00 in Shoprite gift cards which were donated to Women Aware and 165 items collected were donated to “I Support the Girls.”

The evening started with an introduction from Dr. Ousseina Alidou, Professor of African Languages and Literatures Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures. She gave us insight on the global aspects of Femicide and referenced a documentary by Lisa F. Jackson, “The Greatest Silence” and a play also based on sexual violence in Africa called, “Ruined.” NJSFWC (New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs) President Shirley Holly followed with information about NJSFWC and GFWC and how we support the many different organizations and our communities. She shared a personal note about domestic violence and femicide. The panelists were moderated by Political Science MA student and Global Village alumna Zeinab Kone, who smoothly led the panelists discussions through the evening with a variety of prewritten questions which were followed up by questions from the floor.

Panelist Maria Betanzos, Chief Operating Officer of Women Aware, gave insight on survivor centered intervention and shared statistics of 180 homicide victims between 2011 and 2019. 90% of the victims were women attempting to leave their abusive situations. There are now at least 3,000 hearings scheduled for domestic/sexual violence in New Jersey and Women Aware currently has 85 people in secure housing. She also shared her personal experiences helping and learning to listen for what each survivor might need to feel safe.

Panelist Rebecca Vazquez, Director, Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance at Rutgers explained that Rutgers started a task force after a 1989 sexual assault on campus. Now there are many support groups, including student coalitions and advocacy groups, a student run 24 hour hotline, and the formation of Scream Theatre with plays and skits centered around sexual, domestic and dating violence. She spoke about the need to remove barriers and streamline help to survivors. She also emphasized the importance of students speaking up and speaking out about violence. And provide ways in which we can give back the power of control to the survivors.

Panelist Hajar Shirley, Lecturer at Rutgers School of Communications & Information discussed the indirect affects domestic and sexual violence has on an individual and stressed the importance of health equity including the need for survivors to put their own health first. She shared how students, through their own enthusiasm and combined resources could help to end violence and the consequences of femicide.

This Chairman came away from the evening in awe of the fantastic women that work and attend Douglass College. They were all engaged in the discussions and truly cared about the topic and want to make a difference in prevention, awareness and help to survivors of violence. The students were all generous and kind, and truly are becoming the leaders of tomorrow.”


Annual Gift Card Collection Drive

This Season of Gratitude & Giving, Give Hope to Survivors of Domestic Violence

Looking for a community service project that really makes a difference? Consider hosting a gift card collection drive within your family, among your friends, or at your office. Women Aware is collecting gift cards to provide survivors of domestic violence with the resources to buy what they need and want for themselves and their children.


You can mail gift cards to Women Aware, 250 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901.

You can drop off gift cards to Women Aware at the same address, Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm. Please call 732.249.4900 x0428 before stopping by.

The deadline for donations is Friday, November 11. Thank you!