360 Communities appreciates community support for survivors of abuse

by Ann Sheridan
Special to Sun Thisweek

A recent University of Minnesota report says that by their 40s, about one-third of Minnesota women have experienced intimate partner violence. More than a quarter of female college students in Minnesota reported being a victim of intimate partner violence, according to the University of Minnesota Humphrey School’s Center on Women and Public Policy’s “Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota” (2012).

These are troubling statistics, and at 360 Communities, we recognize that addressing violence against women and supporting survivors of abuse takes more than 360 Communities Lewis House domestic violence shelters. It takes community: community awareness, community engagement, and cross-sector community partnerships. Fortunately, we have an abundance of these efforts taking place in Dakota County.

Individuals, companies and government agencies are more engaged with our domestic violence shelters than ever – providing referrals, volunteering time with our staff and residents, and donating food, money, clothing and much more. The 360 Communities Lewis House staff is bolstered each day by inspirational acts of support from the community. Here are just some of the recent ways people have shown their commitment to supporting survivors of domestic abuse:

• Alert community members recognized signs of abuse with their neighbor and drove the woman to our shelter.

• Teens from two local schools took the initiative to raise awareness of teen dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault within their schools.

• A supervisor at Wal-Mart recognized domestic abuse signs with one of her employees and connected her with Lewis House.

• A local business held a holiday work party and its 70 employees used part of the time to walk to our shelter and sing Christmas carols to the shelter residents.

• A high school football team regularly visits Lewis House to read to kids.

• Police continue to be strong partners in the fight against domestic violence. Officers are taking more time to understand victim’s stories, and in return, the victims are collaborating with police.

• A Burger King in Eagan continues to collect donations for Lewis House at its drive-through window.

• Members of a church quilting group regularly donate blankets to our shelters.

• A mother brought her 9-year-old twins to Lewis House so they could donate some of their birthday gifts as a way to give back.

These acts provide residents of Lewis House a sense of hope and belonging – that there are people outside of our shelter walls that wish them well and have an interest in them healing and starting new lives. The support and services that Lewis House staff and volunteers provide are greatly enhanced by the generosity of the community. In fact, it would not be possible to do this work without it.

You can support the valuable work of Lewis House advocates in Eagan and in Hastings as they help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault through the difficult process of rebuilding their lives. If you are inspired to contribute in your own way, call (651) 452-7288. If you would like to volunteer at one of the shelters, visit 360Communities.org and fill out our volunteer interest form.

Please consider attending the upcoming 28th annual Domestic Abuse Awareness Luncheon on Feb. 15, 2013 at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club in Lakeville. The cost is $30 per person and all money raised will support violence prevention and intervention work at 360 Communities. There will be two guest speakers on hand to share their experiences with domestic violence: Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington and survivor Leigh Block. You can find out more or register by visiting 360Communities.org.

Ann Sheridan is director of violence prevention at 360 Communities. 360 Communities aims to prevent violence, ensure school success and promote long-term self-sufficiency. 360 Communities Lewis House offers a safe haven for women and children. In addition to meeting immediate needs, advocates provide emotional support, resources and court advocacy. 360 Communities Sexual Assault Services provides free, confidential support 24 hours a day to survivors of sexual assault. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.