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Lighting Up the Shadows

I’m often asked to explain the origin of the use of the name, “Dawn” in “Dawn’s Place”. Today, I want to tell that story to all of you. When the name was selected, there was a tiny voluntary organization made up of two public defenders and three religious sisters from different religious orders. This as-of-yet unnamed organization met in my office and discussed what the name of our organization should be. This meeting occurred before we had our house, before we had set policies and protocols, and before our incorporation as a non-profit.


I remember that I suggested “Rahab’s House”, and I laugh now when I remember it. But my fellow defender, Marissa Bluestine, had the winning suggestion. She suggested “Dawn’s Place” and it was selected unanimously because all of us loved the reasoning behind it.

Marissa pointed out that yet another prostituted woman had been killed in New Jersey. Like so many other women victims of CSE (Commercial Sexual Exploitation), her killer was unknown; and, it was likely that he would get away scot-free. Her name was Dawn. Marissa suggested that we name our tiny organization after her. In that way, we would symbolize all the anonymous women murdered and victimized by CSE. Also, the name, “Dawn” itself signifies hope after the dark of night.


Dawn’s Place exists to shed light on the shadows, as well as to empower the women emerging from those shadows. 

Over the years, I have sometimes mused on just how appropriate the name is to what we do day after day. CSE is a crime that exists in the shadows. It’s typically grossly underreported. Women and girls are victimized in every neighborhood, and around the world, and few take notice. The victims are anonymous and powerless, just like that murdered Dawn, so many years ago. Dawn’s Place exists to shed light on the shadows, as well as to empower the women emerging from those shadows. 


Friday, March 8th is International Women’s Day. On that day, I invite you to go to our website and join the Dawn’s Place Angels. Donate a small amount that day, and every 8th day of the month thereafter, to help empower the most disempowered of women. Let’s light up the shadows.


Mary DeFusco, Esquire

President and Co-Founder of Dawn's Place

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