Click here to CLOSE & redirect to GOOGLE


A group of at least 30 people spent an hour April 23 at both of the center’s offices in Gurnee and Skokie silently sharing the personal stories of sexual assault and abuse through signs and T-shirts.

Lake County Journal: ‘Standing Silent Witness’ demonstration raises awareness of sexual violence

Aim is to ‘create a culture of respect, equality and safety,’ eliminate sexual assault and abuse

GURNEE – As long as sexual assault and abuse continues, workers, survivors, volunteers and friends of the Gurnee-based Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center will be “standing silent witness” in protest.

They presented relevant statistics, facts and artwork to stand in solidarity with survivors.

Held nationwide for the past two decades as a signature event during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, “Standing Silent Witness” aims to change the way the issue of sexual violence is thought and talked about, organizers said.

“It’s a visual demonstration of how survivors are silenced,” said Anna Lehner, director of development for the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center or ZCenter.

At each location, one designated person spoke and answered questions about the relevance of the event posed by those stopping or passing by.

The demonstration is one of numerous ways the center has worked to “create a culture of respect, equality and safety” and to eliminate sexual abuse and assault, organizers said.

Formed in 1982, the nonprofit ZCenter, https://zcenter.org, provides places where survivors of sexual violence can heal and aims to mobilize the community toward action. Services are available free of charge to all survivors.

A recently launched Superhero Campaign encourages ongoing gifts and donations to provide art therapy supplies, phone line access, self-care kits and counseling to the clients served by the center.

The center also has created a new “73 Seconds” podcast. The title represents the fact that every 73 seconds someone is sexually violated in the U.S., said Christine Berry, director of services for the ZCenter.

Beginning with its first episode in January, the podcast has covered a wide range of topics, all loosely tied to sexual violence. The most recent podcast featured the topic of human trafficking.

The center also has expanded prevention education services, Berry said, and often provides professional development training in the workplace on the issue of sexual harassment. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the center’s services now are offered virtually.

All efforts, including the recent “Standing Silent Witness” event, are about raising awareness and ultimately eliminating sexual abuse and assault, organizers said.

“Sexual violence is something everyone knows about, but nobody really hears survivors,” Barry said. “One of the things we do by standing silent witness is really bring light to the fact survivors have been silenced.

“Events like these are designed to put this in the forefront of everyone’s minds. It’s really its own version of a pandemic we need to bring light to.”

With Sexual Awareness Month hosted by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, organizations throughout the country are encouraged to take part in events such as Standing Silent Witness throughout the month.

Illinois’ 32 rape crisis centers participate in the national movement.

That means at least thousands of people are standing silent witness in solidarity with survivors, Lehner said.

The Gurnee event included a representative from the newly created LGBTQ+ Center Lake County, https://lgbtqcenterlakecounty.com, and other allies and friends of both the ZCenter and survivors, she said.

“It’s really just showing solidarity, strength in numbers … so people don’t feel alone,” she said.


Photo: Candace H. Johnson-For Shaw Media Helen Williamson stands with Hannah Koo and Jessica Gonzalez on Grand Avenue during the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center’s “Standing Silent Witness” Sexual Assault Awareness event April 23 in Gurnee. All are on staff at the ZCenter. (Candace H.Johnson)

Awareness Raising of Vulnerable Communities

On March 16th, 2021, there was a mass shooting in Atlanta. Eight people were killed and of those, six were Asian women. Soon after this event the media and the public spoke louder about fears of Asian hate crimes, racial injustice, and more. As an Asian woman, this news struck close to my heart. There was definite anger and bitterness stemming from fear and horror. 

For more information about the event, see this NY Times article.  

I find myself wrestling with questions like “How do we fight this hate? How do we protect people against hate?” These questions swirl through my mind with a feeling of wanting to do something about the helplessness that seems just around the corner. After such ponderings for an answer, I am often brought to a place of wondering what is within my realm of influence for myself and those around me. What can I do for those around me to protect them and provide safety? How do I advocate for those who are in such vulnerable positions? I find myself wanting to provide a safe space to process their thoughts, emotions, and personal stories. I find myself wanting to build a community. In Korea, there is this saying that if we share our joy, it doubles and if we share our sorrows they are halved. 

When the topic of race and racial injustice is usually brought up in social gatherings, it often seems to create an awkward silence, division, frustration, confusion, and discomfort. It is difficult to feel safe and become vulnerable about the topic of race and racial injustice freely and openly. This difficulty leads people to avoid engaging which creates further assumptions and division. It is a cyclical pattern that keeps us stagnant and stuck. In the end, such deepening assumptions and division only inspire further isolation and increase risk of vulnerability to the minorities. 

Yet people need a safe space to talk about hard topics like this. The politeness given to one another to avoid conflict or the angry outbursts have only led to further divide, prejudice, and misconceptions. In order for us to create a safe space for one another, we need to not assume our own cultural perspective as “the correct one,” but to increase self-awareness of one’s own beliefs and values and to hold an attitude of humility towards the other. 

The attitude of humility starts not with exclamation points (assumptions and judgment) but with question marks (curiosity and compassion). The hope of cultural humility is to help people feel safer to talk about differences and accept differences. Different cultures are not lesser, wrong, or weird. They are just different. Let us all have an approach of question marks to ourselves (bias and assumptions) and question marks to others (curiosity and compassion) to create a safer space for difficult topics and difficult times. Let us create shelter for one another and for the vulnerable communities.

For more information on communities who are more vulnerable and at the highest risk for sexual violence, see Rainn.org. For more information on risk factors for sexual violence, see CDC.gov.

Written by Gloria Lee, Counselor

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

ZCenter has a new podcast!


Check out our newest venture into the digital space! This first podcast discusses human trafficking awareness with a special guest Jean Doi from Stepping Stones!

73 Seconds Podcast


For inquiries regarding the podcast, please contact Sarah Brennan: sbrennan@zcenter.org

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Solidarity Statement

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center upholds our mission, ‘To provide a place where survivors of sexual assault and abuse can heal, and to mobilize the community toward action to end sexual violence,’ which encompasses an understanding that sexual violence is a personal, community and societal issue, impacted greatly by systems of oppression, particularly racial oppression.
Our culturally responsive service delivery model, personalized entry processes for accessing services, strategic outreach to underserved communities, and activism on a policy level, are driven by ZCenter’s mission and commitment to ending racism and promoting social justice. Our free Prevention, Advocacy, Crisis Intervention and Counseling services are provided in the spirit of equality, free from judgment or oppression. We believe that all the people we serve are entitled to respect, accessible services, privacy, empowerment, and advocacy.

As we witness the injustices of the death of George Floyd and so many Black lives, through individual and systemic racism, let us never forget the meaning of this moment and the history that brought us here. Our Rape Crisis Movement began through the activism of women of color, whose kin have endured centuries of pandemic racism.

ZCenter stands in solidarity with individuals and organizations who courageously work to dismantle racism and racist systems that cause destruction to African American communities.

ZCenter reaffirms our commitment to embrace a larger view of what a world free from violence in all its forms can look like.

We commit to bearing witness to the feelings and needs of our coworkers, clients, loved ones and neighbors.

We commit to ongoing learning, dialogue, and social justice activism to impact individual and systemic oppression.

We commit to providing culturally inclusive and equitable services for our communities of color, our LGBTQ+ community, and other underserved groups.

We commit to upholding the worth and dignity of all who are impacted by racial and social injustices.

We commit to partnering with community-based organizations, criminal justice systems, schools, health care and faith systems, to collectively address issues of service inequities and community needs.

We see you. We hear you. We stand with you.

ZCenter Coronovirus Update

The health and safety of our employees and clients is of great concern to ZCenter. We are following the guidance of the Center for Disease Control, and are taking proactive steps to implement additional health safety measures in our office to best prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses.

  • 24/7 Support Line has increased capacity to anticipate a higher volume of callers 847-872-7799
  • Counseling Services will be provided via telehealth measures and will be determined based on what is in the best interest of our clients. All telehealth measures will be confidential.
  • Medical Advocacy services will be provided through expanded education and referral resources provided to Lake County hospitals. In cooperation with our SANE partners, our 24/7 Medical advocacy services will be provided via telehealth to survivors who elect to have supportive contact with ZCenter advocates during their hospital intervention.
  • Community-based services, i.e. professional training, community and prevention-education will resume when applicable per CDC and governmental guidelines.
  • Our response to client services, as well as volunteer and internship inquiries, will continue via phone or telehealth communication.

Download: ZCenter Announcement

Year In Review: 2018

Here are the results of our work, the dedication of our volunteers and your gifts!

Translate »
Scroll Up