Hike in Domestic Violence in Some Metro Counties

Updated: 05/06/2013 3:46 PM KSTP.com By: Maricella Miranda

More women are needing help these days from domestic violence in the metro.

Domestic violence shelters in Eagan and Hastings have been overcapacity since last year, said Ann Sheridan, director of the Lewis House shelters and advocacy group.

There's also an increase in the number of women asking for outreach help from the organization.

"The economy has a lot to do with it," Sheridan said Tuesday.

Sheridan and others from the Lewis House spoke out against domestic violence Tuesday afternoon at the Minnesota Capitol as part of an End Violence Against Women rally.

In December, the Eagan shelter reached 116 percent capacity on average. The Hastings shelter was at 119 percent capacity that month.

Minnesota prosecutors are saying there's been an uptick in "domestic violence incidents" this year. Read more about the incidents here.

The increase comes after a year of cuts to funding at the Lewis House, Sheridan said. The shelter is funded through the state's Office of Justice Programs. Last year, the group lost $70,000 in state funding. It's unclear if funding will be cut again this year.

"I try not to think of it now because it's pretty scary," Sheridan said.

The Lewis House also has seen an increase in the number of immigrant women asking for help with domestic violence, Sheridan said. Specifically, women from the Ethiopian community are looking for resources.

The group hopes to recruit more volunteers, especially those with bilingual skills, to meet the high demand. But many of the volunteers are needed during the day to assist women with court hearings, Sheridan said.

Today, four volunteers accompany women to three courthouses, Sheridan said. The group also uses about seven interns to help women.

The number of volunteers aren't meeting the demand, she said. The Eagan shelter, which has 20 beds, and the Hastings shelter, which has 15 beds, have both been overcapacity for the past year.

The Lewis House welcomes women from any county to fill the bed capacity. But once it's filled, only women from Dakota County will be taken in over the capacity.

Last month, the Lewis House introduced a new therapy technique for children who have seen domestic violence incidents, called play therapy. A therapist will act out the violent incident with the children and talk with them about their emotions.

More information about the Lewis House and volunteering is available here.

The Lewis House is part of Communities 360, a nonprofit that supports more than 13,000 people a year with 11 programs in over 40 locations. The group offers five food shelves, two domestic violence shelters, two resource centers and other programs.

Domestic Violence Cases:

Source: County attorney's offices in Anoka, Carver, Hennepin and Washington. (Ramsey County cases include restraining orders, domestic-related burglaries and stalking, and malicious punishment cases. Hennepin and Dakota counties did not have 2012 case numbers.)