October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but vigilance, conversation, education, and advocacy about the issues of domestic and sexual violence is needed year-round. According to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, at least 13 Minnesotans have died as a result of domestic violence in 2016. One out of four college women experience sexual assault on campus.

Recently, 360 Communities was awarded additional funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Justice Programs that has led to the addition of outreach advocates in more police departments and other parts of the community. The funding has also helped us add hours for some current Lewis House staff.

There are now 360 Communities outreach advocates located in Inver Grove Heights, Hastings, Apple Valley, and Lakeville police departments, as well as at the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office. We have also added bilingual outreach advocates at the South St. Paul and West St. Paul police stations (Spanish-speaking), as well as a Somali-speaking advocate that will cover all of Dakota County. Having these advocates out in the community helps us identify and support more victims of domestic and sexual violence with the resources they need to begin new lives, free of violence. We are also able to reach new cultural pockets of need.

360 Communities Lewis House staff and volunteers have been recognized as leaders in the state for providing life-saving shelter, advocacy, and resources for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. Lewis House supports more than 3,000 people a year with education and outreach services.