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National Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Human Trafficking in Lake County, Illinois: Demographics and Statistics


In early 2020 the Lake County Sheriff’s Office announced fourteen arrests as the result of a multi-day human trafficking crackdown in suburban Gurnee. According to a news release, the Lake County Sheriff’s Special Investigations Group used classified advertising websites to lure customers to a Gurnee hotel before making arrests. This news came as a shock to many who believe that something as horrific as human trafficking would never occur in their safe, quiet neighborhood. Little do they know Lake County has some of the highest rates of human trafficking in Illinois. 

According to Polaris Project, in 2019 there were 434 human trafficking victims identified in the state of Illinois. Additionally there were 115 traffickers identified and 53 trafficking businesses. 

Due to the high rate of underreporting, we do not have precise statistics for the number of trafficking victims in Lake County. However, according to the Center for Impact Research in Metropolitan Chicago, 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are involved in prostitution in Chicagoland annually, with one third getting involved in prostitution by the age of 15 and 62 percent by the age of 18. Data on contacts to trafficking hotlines shows how few of the estimated tens of thousands of victims reach out for help. Numbers from Polaris Project show that in 2019 there were only 648 calls to their national hotline from people living in Illinois. Additionally, 73 webform contacts, 27 emails, 74 texts and 22 webchats.

In a three-month period during a 2013 study of online solicitation, there were over 50 postings by men residing in Waukegan and Gurnee; and almost 100 postings by men living in suburbs surrounding Lake County. The study showed us that sex trafficking is pervasive throughout Lake and Northern Cook counties in Illinois, including men buying sex in a variety of venues and women experiencing various forms of violenceand profiding sex against their will (Call to Action to End Violence in Lake County, July 2017).

Data shows that most cases of trafficking in Lake County are most heavily concentrated in and around the cities of North Chicago, Waukegan, and Gurnee, which also have the highest rates of gang activity. Some research indicates that as many as half of the gangs in the Chicago area are involved in sex trafficking. 

The Chief of Police of North Chicago states that trafficking of minors through gangs is a major issue in that community. Wealthier communities of Lake County like Deerfield, Highland Park and Lake Forest are also facing the presence of human trafficking through erotic massage parlors and other sexually related services. According to State Representative Barbara Wheeler, human trafficking is a lucrative business in northern Illinois and traffickers will use massage parlors as a cover and method for connecting sex trade customers. It is estimated that 50 percent of those who are trafficked are also engaged in the legal commercial sex industry. Data shows that sex trafficking flourishes most in places where legal sex-oriented businesses such as strip clubs, adult stores, escort services, and erotic massage parlors are prevalent.

Human trafficking is an ongoing crime within our community. As we continue to raise awareness and encourage victims to seek help, we are sure more data will be brought to light. At ZCenter, we are committed to fighting for those affected by sexual violence and we know that the more people we reach means more will come forward. 


Human Trafficking – Lake County Resources


Human Trafficking is not a new phenomenon, but caring about it is. Human Trafficking has been happening forever, but only in the year 2000 was it recognized as a crime by the US Government & the United Nations. You have the ability to make an impact on human trafficking in Lake County. 

Awareness is key in identifying signs within our community and reporting information to local law enforcement. Here are some indicators which suggest a person may be a victim of human trafficking:

  • Person is under the age of 18 and is involved in the sex industry.
  • Person has visible signs of abuse including unexplained bruises, black eyes, cuts or marks.
  • Person exhibits behaviors of fear, anxiety, depression or paranoia.
  • Person expresses interest in, or is in a relationship with significantly older adults.
  • Person has a tattoo or brand and is reluctant to explain it.
  • Person has untreated illnesses or infections, particularly sexually transmitted infections.
  • Person is not in control of own money or identification.
  • Person displays secrecy of whereabouts after having been open about activities in the past.
  • Person keeps unusual hours.
  • Person wears new clothes, gets hair/nails done, possesses new material goods with no financial means to obtain these independently.
  • Not speaking on own behalf
  • Evidence of inability to move or leave job or take time off
  • Unpaid for work or compensated very little
  • Lives with co-workers and employer no privacy
  • Works off the books in a low-paying job

This list is not exhaustive. One of these indicators on its own may not mean someone is trafficked, but a combination of indicators may amount to a situation of human trafficking. If you think you know or have met a victim of human trafficking in the Chicago area, call your local police department, the Salvation Army’s STOP-IT program hotline at 877.606.3158, or the national hotline from Polaris Project at (888) 373-7888

To take an active approach in ending trafficking consider participating in training to recognize and respond appropriately to trafficking. Operation Underground Railroad offers free training  to help you identify the signs of trafficking.  Identifying victims is only one step in solving the issue. Resources need to be available to assist victims to transition to safe living situations.

Trauma-informed spaces and organization are made available to help create pathways for victims to exit their exploitative situation. Each of us needs to educate ourselves and raise awareness in our social circles.  In Lake County, education and support services are provided by Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, Stepping Stones, and a Safe Place


Further information, resources, and hotlines:

The Polaris Project

Stop It, The Salvation Army

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center

A Safe Place for Help

Stepping Stones Network

Lake County Coalition Against Human Trafficking



Written by ZCenter Staff, reposted from January 2021. 

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.

Self-Care during the Holidays

As the holidays are upon us, I’m sure we can all feel the stress and chaos that come with celebrating the final days of the year. This time of year is such a wonderful time to spend with family watching movies by the fireplace, playing outside in the snow, baking, engaging in craft activities, etc. The holidays can create an immense stress load on individuals, and therefore it is important that we care for ourselves. Self-care is not an activity that requires much energy, time or focus. Taking five minutes a day to focus on ourselves can prevent future burnout. Today, I will discuss possible self-care tips that we can all take part in during this stressful time. 

Meditating comes in many different forms such as guided meditation, yoga meditation, mindfulness meditation, etc. I am personally a big fan of guided meditation, specifically sleep guided meditation. According to the health coach institute, guided meditations on a range of subjects help you center yourself and keep calm through the holiday hustle and bustle”(healthcoachinstitute). There are countless apps that help provide quick, simple, and easy access to meditation sessions. One of my favorite apps to use is called Meditopia, which has different types of meditations for sleeping, relaxing, focus, self-love, releasing stress, and motivation. 

Another self-care tip is staying active through walks, runs, sport activities, etc. There are countless studies that prove staying physically active helps with cardiovascular health and improves bone health, flexibility & mobility, muscle strength, etc. On top of these benefits, during physical activities the body releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that increase pleasure and well-being all while reducing pain and discomfort. Through the pandemic, I have become a big fan of going on walks with my not-so puppy. I’ve realized that going on walks, even if it is for 15-20 minutes a day, helps reduce my stress level; as well, it allows me to take a breather. 

Sleeping! This is my all time favorite self-care activity as it does not require much from us, and is very easy to do! You might be thinking, “How does sleeping count as self-care if it is something we do on a daily basis?” The reality is that sleeping an adequate amount each night helps our bodies immensely. There are countless studies that prove the benefits of receiving the appropriate amount of sleep helps us prevent getting ill, lowers our risk of developing serious health problems, reduces stress, improves mood, allows us to think more clearly, etc. Most adults require 7-8 hours of sleep a day, while teens and children vary depending on their age ranging from 9-13 hours a day. Making a bedtime routine can aid us in getting the appropriate hours of sleep, allowing us to wake up the next day restful and ready to face challenges. 

Making time for self-care should not be an activity that requires a lot of time from us or should be something that we dread doing. During the holidays, the days seem to blend with one another, not allowing us to take a breath of fresh air. Between shopping for the perfect gifts to cooking for the family, it can become very hard to make time to schedule self-care. Making time to schedule self-care during the holidays is important as this can prevent future burnout, lower the risk of health problems, etc. I hope my tips have helped you all think about quick ideas for self-care that do not require much time, energy, or focus!


Happy Holidays!


Written by Evelyn Perez, Northeastern Illinois University BSW Student and ZCenter Intern

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.




Support and Resources during the Holidays

This can be a joyous and festive time of year for many. It can also be a time when sexual assault survivors feel triggered, a time when abuse within families becomes more prevalent, or a time when basic needs are unmet. We at ZCenter hope to support you in whatever way we can. Please look through our list of resources and self-care ideas if you are experiencing this time of year as challenging. May we all have the support we need.


General Assistance

For general information about Lake County resources, including shelter, food, counseling, hotlines, etc., please reach out to United Way of Lake County by calling 211.

For United Way of Metro Chicago, call 311.

Sexual Abuse, Assault, or Harassment

  1. ZCenter’s Crisis Hotline: 847-872-7700
  2. ZCenter general information: 847-244-1187 or info@zcenter.org
  3. RAINN national hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
  4. Polaris Project (for human trafficking) hotline: 800-373-7888

Domestic Violence

  1. A Safe Place for Help Crisis Line: (847) 249-4450 or 1-800-600-SAFE
  2. A Safe Place for Help general information: (847) 360-6471 or info@asafeplaceforhelp.org
  3. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (7233)
  4. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence hotline: 800-799-7233

LGBTQ+ Resources

  1. LGBTQ+ Center Lake County has compiled a list of resources for the LGBTQ+ community in Lake County, found here.
  2. National Suicide Prevention 24-hour Lifeline: 800-273-TALK
  3. The Trevor Project 24-hour Hotline: 866-488-7386

Servicios en español

  1. Mano a Mano – Round Lake (Bilingual family resources, advocacy): (847) 201-1521
  2. La Paloma (housing, counseling, abuse/trafficking survivors): 847-731-7165 x190. For immediate crisis: 800-600-SAFE (800-600-7233)
  3. HACES: Hispanice American Community Education and Services – Waukegan (Immigration, family resources,DACA, Bilingual GED): (847) 244-0300

Mental Health/Suicide

  1. Text-A-Tip is a 24/7 anonymous text crisis hotline offering emotional support for middle school and high school youth. Simply text LAKECO (and your message) to the number 1-844-823-5323.  Within seconds, you will receive an automated response, and within minutes a live mental health counselor will respond to your text.  All messages are sent through a cloaking server located offsite that keeps the communication completely anonymous.
  2. The Lake County Health Department’s Crisis Care Hotline: 847- 377-8088
  3. SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  4. NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  5. Nicasa Behavioral Health Services (Behavioral/Emotional Support, SubstanceAbuse): (847) 546-6450 or info@nicasa.org
  6. National Suicide Prevention 24/7 LifeLine: Dial 988, or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) en español: 1-888-628-9454
  7. National 24/7 Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741


Self-Care During the Holidays

The National Suicide Prevention LifeLine recommends the following for self-care ideas for December and beyond. 

  • Take a walk outside
  • Write a love letter to yourself
  • Write about something you are grateful for in your life (it can be a person, place, or thing)
  • Create a happy playlist and a coping playlist
  • Treat yourself to a favorite snack
  • Watch your favorite movie
  • Forgive someone
  • Forgive yourself
  • Say thank you to someone who has helped you recently
  • Create a DIY self-care kit of things that make you feel better
  • Take your medication on time
  • Take a new fitness class at the gym (yoga, Zumba, etc.)
  • Plan a lunch date with someone you haven’t seen in a while
  • Pamper yourself with an at-home spa day
  • Take a day off from social media and the Internet
  • Reach out to your support system
  • Cuddle with your pets or a friend’s pet
  • Take the time to stop, stand and stretch for 2 minutes
  • Wake up a little earlier and enjoy your a morning cup of tea or coffee before the morning rush
  • Take a hot shower or bath
  • Take yourself out to dinner
  • Volunteer
  • Start that one project you’ve been contemplating for a while
  • Sit with your emotions, and allow yourself to feel and accept them. It’s okay to laugh, cry, just feel whatever you’re feeling with no apologies!
  • Cook a favorite meal from scratch
  • Take a 5-minute break in your day
  • Compliment someone (and yourself, too!)
  • Give yourself permission to say no
  • De-clutter your mind: write down 5 things that are bothering you, and then literally throw them away
  • Donate 3 pieces of clothing that you no longer wear
  • Take the time to find 5 beautiful things during your daily routine
  • Take a mental health day from school, work, etc.
  • Take a nap
  • Reach out to the Lifeline


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor. 

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.


Taylor Swift: The Work and the Resilience

I’m so sick of running as fast I can / Wondering if I’d get there quicker / If I was a man / And I’m so sick of them coming at me again / ‘Cause if I was a man / Then I’d be the man – “The Man”

My obsession with Taylor Swift began in seventh grade when “Love Story” hit number one on the iTunes music chart. At the time, Taylor Swift was a rising star in the country world. Even back then, she was known for her talent for using her lyrics to piece together stories that resonated deeply with the listener. As her stardom continued to rise, I devoured every album she put out, my love for her overriding my heartbreak after hearing she was dating my first celebrity crush, Joe Jonas. 

Yet as the years passed, I noticed a distinct change in the way the media (and my friends) began to talk about her. The media honed in on her love life, and the love songs once heralded as vivid storytelling became symbolic of her man-hunting and “desperate” ways. Swift even wrote a (brilliant) song about this – “Blank Space” – a tongue-in-cheek depiction of her character if she truly was who the media portrayed her to be. Despite Swift’s satirical lyrical responses and good-natured “shaking” off of this barrage of criticism, the narrative she was ascribed to never should have happened. 

Swift is by no means the first celebrity to have her love life intensely scrutinized in a way that overshadows her work and reduces her to a “girlfriend,” but she should be the last. Generalizing her songs and casting her aside as a songwriter that just “writes about love songs” is hypocritical and anti-feminist. Her male counterparts objectify women and sing about their romantic woes on a similar basis yet are not subject to the same criticism Swift receives. But even more egregious is that such criticism boils down to the deeply rooted belief that women should not be able to speak about their feelings. Dwelling on one’s feelings and (gasp) verbalizing those feelings can cast women as “crazy.” It’s ok to feel “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.” Emotions are meant to be felt and shouldn’t be stigmatized. Dismissing someone as “too emotional” perpetuates the toxic belief that being in tune with one’s feelings is weak and shifts the focus away from what caused them to feel that way in the first place.

And there’s nothing like a mad woman / What a shame she went mad / No one likes a mad woman / You made her like that / And you’ll poke that bear ‘til her claws come out / And you find something to wrap your noose around – “mad woman”

Swift has had a busy couple of years, re-recording the albums she released while under Big Machine Records. What Taylor Swift is doing with her re-recording is nothing short of badass, but it is an unfortunate consequence of her not being afforded the rights to purchase back the masters (i.e. master recordings) for the songs that she wrote. It is disheartening that some people have dismissed her struggle, stating that she should have known better than to sign the contract that gave away the rights to her masters (a contract she signed when she was fifteen years old). These individuals fall into the trap of accepting the status quo—just because the music industry has operated in this predatory way for years does not mean that it should continue to subject young, impressionable artists this way. Their equivalent of a “suck it up and move on” devalues Swift’s lifelong work to a bad business decision. It’s not just a cost of doing business when the said business is one’s life—and Swift has every right to fight and have ownership of her creative works.

Taylor Swift also made headlines in 2015 when former radio personality David Mueller filed a defamation lawsuit against her. Two years prior, Swift’s team reported to his radio station that Mueller had put his hand under her skirt and groped her during a pre-concert photo opportunity. Swift countersued, alleging assault and battery, asking for a symbolic $1 in damages. During the trial, Swift remained steadfast despite demeaning and patronizing questions by opposing counsel. When rejecting a suggestion that she had misidentified Mueller, she asserted: “I’m not going to allow you or your client to say I am to blame.” When presented with a photograph capturing Swift with Mueller and asked why the front of her skirt was not raised, she remarked: “Because my ass is located on the back of my body.” When asked about the defamation charges that caused Mueller’s “humiliation,” she retorted: “I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions, not mine.” Swift ultimately prevailed, but in her recent documentary Miss Americana, she reflected: “You don’t feel any sense of victory when you win, because the process is so dehumanizing. This is with seven witnesses and a photo. What happens when you get raped and it’s your word against his?” 

Swift’s experience of sexual assault matters. Her candid remarks about the emotional damage she suffered as a consequence of it matters. Each and every individual who undergoes a similar experience matters. Swift’s trial and her subsequent comments showcased one of the most famous women in the pop world in one of her most vulnerable moments. Most importantly, it placed the issue of sexual violence on a nationwide stage, helped combat the stigma of talking about sexual assault, and shed light on its accompanying life-long impacts. 

Rain came pouring down when I was drowning / That’s when I could finally breathe /

And by morning, gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean – “Clean”


He’s got my past frozen behind glass / But I’ve got me – “it’s time to go”


Pushed from the precipice / climbed right back up the cliff / long story short, I survived – “long story short”

It would be remiss to fail to mention that Taylor Swift is a rich, white woman that fits societal standards of beauty. She clearly possesses privilege, and she is by no means perfect (nobody is!). But what she does demonstrate through the media portrayal of her is that there is still a desperate need for a cultural shift when discussing women and their work. 

She had a marvelous time ruining everything – “The Last Great American Dynasty”

Written by Rachel Lee, ZCenter Volunteer and Northwestern Law Student

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

How does trauma affect children’s emotional well-being?

When children go through a traumatic event such as a sexual assault (SA), they must have a support system of parents and guardians there to ensure not only their physical safety but also their mental and emotional safety in the aftermath. It is not a surprise that children who experience trauma will have their world changed, but fortunately, there are things we can do to support them through this time and those changes. Trauma can occur across a variety of situations from being impacted by broad natural disasters all the way down to more personal and specific events such as SA. Trauma is a complex concept because every individual adapts and reacts differently from non-existent or acute reactions all the way to severe and chronic reactions; so viewing trauma as a sliding scale is essential in adjusting to a new normal after a traumatic event. Further, it is worth noting that two individuals can experience the same type of event or even the exact same event and still be impacted very differently, therefore different supports and approaches in healing are necessary. 

Now, to unpack how emotions in the brain are impacted by a trauma, this blog post indicates that SA is a traumatic event, and so in the aftermath of a trauma any of the upcoming information can occur. Trauma can specifically impact emotions for children by changing their ability to process and respond to emotions- which is called “emotional regulation.” All children are unique in how they experience the world, but understandably, when trauma occurs there is an added layer of difficulty for their growing brains to comprehend the world around them. The goal of this blog post is to give parents, guardians, and caretakers insight into the psychology of childhood emotional regulation and how they can support their child or any child through one of the most difficult things someone can experience. Below are some common questions one might ask in the aftermath of a trauma and when they are preparing to help a child heal. Accompanying each provided question is a response supported by trauma-informed scientific evidence that reveals what you can do to support your child through changes and challenges.


What happens to my child’s emotions when they experience a trauma?

A certain part of the brain called the amygdala can be impacted for those who experience trauma. The amygdala is responsible for emotional intensity including how we perceive and react emotionally. This can mean that children who undergo trauma have a greater experience of emotion compared to their peers, and that may be a lot for their body to handle since their brain hasn’t finished developing or understanding emotions yet. Further, scientists have studied the brain and the amygdala to reveal that there can be a decrease in brain activity in the amygdala which in turn can impact emotional regulation (Thomason et al., 2015). What this means is that structurally there will be some changes in the brain for your child after a trauma; so, as parents and guardians taking the time to work through emotions manually with a child can be very beneficial for the child to lighten the load of the emotional material they are working to process, since it can be too overwhelming to handle themselves. Of course, it is always important to recognize that not all children will feel comfortable expressing their emotions in a timeline you might expect, so as someone supporting them, we need to respect and understand their boundaries and decisions while continuing to make sure they have access to support.


How do I know if my child is struggling with healthy emotional regulation?

Children process emotions around the trauma and in day-to-day life as the event can impact pre-existing healthy emotional regulation because the child may soon experience emotional dysregulation which would not be considered healthy. To see if your child is struggling, there are certain signs that you can look for to indicate if dysregulation is happening. A child may experience prolonged states of sadness, they may lose interest in activities they typically love, or they may withdraw from peers or family in a social setting. These examples can all reflect symptoms of depression, indicating that healthy emotional regulation is not happening. Depression can specifically stem from struggling to “reappraise emotions” meaning that it impacts our ability to understand something from a different or more positive perspective (Skymba et al., 2020). Children especially can struggle in coping with negative emotions regardless of experiencing trauma because they tend to “ruminate” or replay their thoughts and emotions in their minds which further intensifies their feelings. We can support an individual through this by seeing a licensed therapist that can help them unpack these thoughts/emotions and give them the space to positively reappraise emotions, which in turn can decrease depression and set the child up to practice healthier emotional reappraisal and regulation techniques.


What are other ways trauma can affect a child? 

It is not uncommon for other health issues to occur aside from depression, so it is important to be in tune with what may be going on in your child’s head and what you can look for to help them. Aside from ensuring that the child is physically safe after a trauma, we need to make sure they are mentally safe as well. There is evidence of not only depression but also anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurring in individuals who experience trauma (Ford et al., 2018). While this is no guarantee that your child will or will not experience these types of mental health struggles at any point following trauma, parents and guardians need to be aware that these things can and do happen. It is also important to understand that not everyone reacts to trauma the same way, and so the ways we support someone and the emotions they experience need to be adjusted to meet them where they are at and not where you want them to be. You can expect some changes in your child before and after experiencing a trauma, but you should closely monitor for instances of great emotional intensity, instances of muted emotional intensity, or instances that demonstrate incoherent emotions and be able to respond accordingly in those situations. 

Furthermore, because trauma can impact the way children process and respond to emotions since their brains are doing more processing than normal in the wake of a trauma, a child could potentially experience impact to both existing and developing friendships. Because a child can experience hardship in understanding and processing the emotions of others, play can be difficult because the interactions may be frustrating or confusing in the aftermath of trauma. Friendships are an important support system for children and for younger children play is very positive for growth and development, so as a caretaker it is important to support your child through these now potentially difficult experiences by providing them resources and support.


Are these effects long-term?

As mentioned above, certain brain structures and certain emotional processes are impacted by trauma. However, these impacts are typically not a forever-state and rather will result in a delayed development instead before resuming processes as they were before a trauma. When a child (or anyone for that matter) has experienced a trauma, their body and brain are working overtime to maintain “normalcy” and make sure they are okay. Because time and energy may be devoted so long to other areas, there is a trend of delayed development for children specifically in the processes that allow them to understand the emotions of others during their emotional regulation. Limited research exists to assess how the brain functions before and after trauma since trauma is unpredictable, but the general agreement amongst psychologists is that wherever the current emotional developments are they will pause in response to trauma. This is not meant to be alarming, but rather to let us know that a child is going to need extra support and understanding when dealing with not only their own emotions but when interacting with the emotions of others as well (Van Schie, 2017). Further, it is important to know that specifically, reappraisal does not develop linearly through childhood and adolescence, but rather it is a workable skill (even for adults!), so having a delayed development is not detrimental so long as we continue to work with and support children in building this skill (McRae et al., 2012).


What can I do?

It is important to know that as a parent or guardian, you are very important for helping a child heal, but it is also important to know that support systems look different for each individual. One important thing in healing from trauma is knowing that there is no “right way” to do things, rather finding your own way is the best option and making sure that you meet your child at their level of needs. Support can take the form of group therapy, individual therapy, having a family support system, attending family therapy, partaking in art or play therapy, and so forth to make sure an individual has the necessary resources to heal. There is evidence that being in these types of therapy settings and focusing on positive emotions in those such environments rather than ruminating or focusing on the past can decrease symptoms of depression in children in the aftermath of the trauma (Thomas et al., 2011). Further, parents should choose not to focus on the stress of the situation, but rather on the wellbeing of their child; it creates an environment that allows for positive emotions to flourish later in life for the child which is important for the healing process as it does not provide an environment for rumination to occur (Langevin et al., 2016). Parents can practice mindfulness in approaching this situation and play a part in decreasing the negative thoughts a child replays in their mind, since you are modeling healthy emotional behavior as well by doing so. Because parenting styles can easily be changed to adapt to our children, we must take the steps to support the child and adapt to their needs as they grow (Moreira et al., 2018). Mindfulness is another topic on its own, but for some parents/guardians it may be worth looking into as a way to personally cope and process while supporting a child through a trauma.


What happens now?

Ultimately, all of this information demonstrates that trauma such as SA can impact a child, but as a parent, by taking part in their social support system we can help the child in better understanding their emotions and coping not only day-to-day but long-term as well. It is important to understand that having this information is a good step in moving forward and supporting children every day through one of the most challenging things someone can go through by having these questions answered, but we cannot forget that recovery is a process and not a destination. The Zacharias Center offers free counseling services that can be done in group therapy or individual therapy format to support that process. The phone number to reach the Z Center 24-hour support line is (847)872-7799, and this line is available to support survivors as well as their loved ones who are experiencing the trauma with them. As humans we really are resilient, and so recovery and healing will continue to be the desired outcome for those impacted by a trauma because through work it is attainable. Providing resources, reducing rumination and worrying, giving support to build coping and reappraisal skills, and ensuring that individuals have the specific mental tools to cope are all wonderful ways to foster resilience. The assistance of professionals or therapists who can help a child to discover those tools and resources also provide wonderful support options and pathways to help a child heal in the aftermath of a trauma.


Written by Haley Wold, ZCenter Volunteer from Lake Forest College.

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.




Ford, Brett Q., Sandy J. Lwi, Amy L. Gentzler, Benjamin Hankin, and Iris B. Mauss. 2018. “The Cost of Believing Emotions Are Uncontrollable: Youths’ Beliefs about Emotion Predict Emotion Regulation and Depressive Symptoms.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 147 (8): 1170–90. doi:10.1037/xge0000396.supp (Supplemental).

Langevin, Rachel, Martine Hébert, Dansereau, Claire Allard, and Bonnin, Anne‐Claude Bernard. 2016. “Emotion Regulation in Sexually Abused Preschoolers: The Contribution of Parental Factors.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 29 (2): 180–84. doi:10.1002/jts.22082.

McRae, Kateri, James J. Gross, Jochen Weber, Elaine R. Robertson, Peter Sokol-Hessner, Rebecca D. Ray, John D. E. Gabrieli, and Kevin N. Ochsner. 2012. “The Development of Emotion Regulation: An FMRI Study of Cognitive Reappraisal in Children, Adolescents and Young Adults.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 7 (1): 11–22. doi:10.1093/scan/nsr093.

Moreira, Helena, and Maria Cristina Canavarro. 2018. “The Association between Self-Critical Rumination and Parenting Stress: The Mediating Role of Mindful Parenting.” Journal of Child and Family Studies 27 (7): 2265–75. doi:10.1007/s10826-018-1072-x.

Skymba, Haley V., Wendy Troop-Gordon, Haina H. Modi, Megan M. Davis, Anne L. Weldon, Yan Xia, Wendy Heller, and Karen D. Rudolph. 2020. “Emotion Mindsets and Depressive Symptoms in Adolescence: The Role of Emotion Regulation Competence.” Emotion, December. doi:10.1037/emo0000902.

Thomas, Renu, David DiLillo, Kate Walsh, and Melissa A. Polusny. 2011. “Pathways from Child Sexual Abuse to Adult Depression: The Role of Parental Socialization of Emotions and Alexithymia.” Psychology of Violence 1 (2): 121–35. doi:10.1037/a0022469.

Thomason, Moriah E., Hilary A. Marusak, Maria A. Tocco, Angela M. Vila, Olivia McGarragle, and David R. Rosenberg. 2015. “Altered Amygdala Connectivity in Urban Youth Exposed to Trauma.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 10 (11): 1460–68. doi:10.1093/scan/nsv030.

Van Schie, Charlotte C., Anne-Laura van Harmelen, Kirsten Hauber, Albert Boon, Eveline A. Crone, and Bernet M. Elzinga. 2017. “The Neural Correlates of Childhood Maltreatment and the Ability to Understand Mental States of Others.” European Journal of Psychotraumatology 8 (1). doi:10.1080/20008198.2016.1272788.

Spokes of the Wheel: Reproductive Justice

What is Reproductive Justice?


We often think that reproductive justice and reproductive rights are synonymous, that both are the work to give women rights about their reproductive choices. However, reproductive justice is a much larger issue that involves the entire lifespan of the parent, child, and entire community. It also acknowledges the intersection of class, race, and reproductive justice; reproductive justice is an act of racial justice.

Reproductive justice aims to ensure that individuals have access to abuse prevention and comprehensive education for their entire lifespan of sexuality. It aims to support individuals’ choices about having children. It aims to support parents and children in the many years before and after the act of childbirth.


Reproductive Justice and Sexual Violence


At ZCenter, we offer prevention, advocacy, crisis intervention, and counseling as ways to support reproductive justice. We offer the Spokes of the Wheel: Reproductive Justice as a model for addressing reproductive justice at the individual and community level.

  • Learning about Healthy Relationships and Consent. For a healthy reproductive life, we all need to learn that sexuality can and should be healthy and should always involve affirmative consent. ZCenter offers this through our prevention services in PreK-12 grade and higher education.
  • Sexual Abuse Prevention. Learning that we can set boundaries, say no, and report to a trusted adult when there is sexual abuse are all crucial aspects of reproductive justice. ZCenter offers this through our prevention services in PreK-12 grade and higher education.
  • Support & Services for Those Who Wish or Do Not Wish to Have Children. Particularly in cases of abuse, individuals are more empowered when they have choices. As part of our medical advocacy services, we offer clients the choices available to them and help them with any resources they need for taking the next step in their decision.
  • Childcare. As we support parents’ choices, we must acknowledge that lack of childcare is a barrier to economic, social, and political power. Paid maternity/paternity leave, affordable or free childcare, and workplace support for parents are necessary as we work toward reproductive justice.
  • Resources to Make Healthy Decisions. At all ages, individuals deserve access to education and resources for a healthy reproductive life. This includes parent resources, education about sexual health, pregnancy resources, and access to quality educational content. ZCenter is proud to offer PATHH: Preventing Abuse Through Holistic Health, a course designed to help youth to comprehensively learn about healthy decisions in their sexuality. This course will begin in 2022.
  • Crisis Intervention Services. When abuse or physical crisis occur, individuals deserve access to support services. ZCenter continues to offer crisis intervention in many sectors of society, including schools, emergency rooms, a crisis support hotline, and counseling.
  • Gender & Sexuality: Support, Education, Services. Our understanding of sexuality and gender are ever expanding and all individuals deserve access to this knowledge. At ZCenter, we know that some vulnerable populations have a higher risk for experiencing sexual violence, including the LGBTQ+ community. We strive to support this community with our services while also partnering with others in the community, like LGBTQ+ Center Lake County.

We encourage you to contact us if you have questions about any of our services or reproductive justice. 


For more information:

National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice

Sister Song: Reproductive Justice

Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, by Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger 


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor. 

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Chicago Blackhawks: Sexual Assault and What We Have Learned

Chicagoland is reeling from the news of sexual assault allegations within the Chicago Blackhawks. One of the team’s coaches assaulted a player and leadership of the team ignored the allegations for years. This horrific news shows us that professional athletes respond to sexual trauma just as anyone else does.

“The perpetrator was celebrated, paraded around. It made me feel like nothing… like I wasn’t important.” –Kyle Beach

Sean Black, Chief Projects Officer with the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) described that the trust that you had in a person is completely broken. Recovering from that is a long process. He also shared characteristics we are seeing that are similar to many other sexual assault cases:

  • Institutions tend to cover it up.
  • Most people don’t believe the survivor.
  • Retraumatization is common.
  • It’s common for the survivor not to come forward until later.
  • The perpetrator is often someone known and/or someone who holds power over the other.
  • The fact that this assault happened between two individuals who identify as male is not uncommon. Sexual assault can happen to anyone.
  • Sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator (rapist).

At ZCenter, we use the simple guidelines of Believe, Validate, and Empower. 

Believe when someone discloses their experience of sexual abuse to you. Validate their words and feelings. Empower them by giving them choices.


Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center (ZCenter) is a certified ICASA center. For more information about the interview with Sean Black from ICASA, see the video here.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, please know that your local rape crisis center is here for you. In Lake County and Northern Cook County, please feel free to call our Crisis Support Line if you are in crisis after experience sexual assault. 


Crisis Support Line: 847-872-7799


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor

Photo by Sarah Brennan, MSW, Activism and Volunteer Coordinator


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

Boil, Boil, Toil, and Trouble: Nothing is Practical about Practical Magic

The Owens House

I have had a Pinterest board dedicated to Practical Magic since I saw it many, many years ago. The fashion, the hair, the HOUSE, I wanted that life. It was my dream to live my life on an island off the Massasschust coast, in that house, brewing and gardening. 

This is the story of a long line of witches. After being exiled to this island with her unborn child, Maria — an ancestor of the Owens sisters who are the main characters of the movie — casts a spell to stop herself from being able to fall in love because her lover never came for her. Shortly after, Maria falls dead from heartbreak and the curse is passed on through the generations. The men that the Owens women love are destined for death. 

The story picks up with the introduction of Sally and Gillian Owens. The two sisters  have recently moved to their ancestral house with their aunts because their father has suffered the fate of the curse and their mother has died of heartbreak. In this house, they are encouraged to do their magic, eat chocolate for breakfast, and to feel things profoundly. 

One night, a very upset woman comes to the door. She says that the love of her life loves another and she wants the aunts to cast a spell to make him love her. After watching this, Sally and Gillian react differently. Sally says that she hopes never to fall in love whereas Gillian can’t wait to fall in love. 

Flash forward and Gillian goes off into the world, leaving behind a string of broken hearts. Thanks to a boost from her aunt, Sally who vowed to never fall in love, but with a boost from her aunts, she falls in love with a local man and they have two daughters. Unfortunately, Sally is not immune to the curse; her husband ‘Michael dies and Sally moves back into the aunts’ house. 

Meanwhile Gillian is partying in Arizona, where she meets Jimmy Angelov. One night Gillian calls Sally in a panic; Jimmy has been abusing her and she needs Sally to come. Sally slips him too much Belladonna, and he dies. Rather than LEAVING HIM DEAD, they decide to cast a spell that tries to revive him (SPOILER: it does not work), and then the real antics begin. 

So what does it all mean? And how in the world is Practical Magic related to feminism and ending sexual violence? I think the best way to start is with the chant that is almost like a nursery rhyme in this town. It is so common that a group of elementary school students are singing it….“Witch, witch, you’re a b***h. To which Sally says, “You’d think in 200 years they would have time to come up with a better chant.” It shows that women outside the norm are typically viewed as witches, seductresses, and dangerous. Women who are strong, women who may not want children, women who love freely are viewed — and have been viewed through much of history — as witches and have suffered such fates as being burned alive. 

This movie clearly passes the Bechdel test, which determines how feminist a movie is. This test has three basic rules: it has to have at least two women in it, they have to talk to each other, and they have to discuss something besides a man. It seems like a pretty simple task, but you would be surprised by how few movies actually pass this test. 

As well, it shows us that there is more to being a femme-identifying person because you have the Aunts: one kind, one mischievous; you have Sally, calm and powerful; and then you have Gillian, liberated and loyal. This also works to create a movie of empowering female relationships. It is not that these women do not fight with each other (oh, they do). Rather than this movie making you go “ah women, so petty,” it shows you how strong the female-identifying bond can be. 

This bond is so crucial to the movie that when Gillian becomes the victim and survivor of Domestic Abuse, it is the sisterhood and the coven bond that protects her. And as October is Domestic Violence (DV) Awareness month, it is important to showcase how DV truly affects women. Practical Magic highlights this experience and shows Domestic Violence survivors who experience more than just physical abuse. 

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us with a movie that praises sisterhood and female bonds. It leaves us with hope that the magic inside of us does not make us evil or outcast, but rather we must find our own coven that respects and honors our magic. 


Written by Cassidy Herberth, Prevention and Education Specialist

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






Survivors and Power: The Crimes of R. Kelly



Robert Sylvester Kelly is a well-known American singer,songwriter and record producer. R Kelly has been convicted of several sexual abuse counts including sex trafficking and federal racketeering. R Kelly’s cases began in 1994, in which he, 27, married Aaliyah D. Haughton, a 15 year old in a secret ceremony. The marriage was annulled several months later due to age consent restrictions. In 1997, Tiffany Hawkins filed a report alleging sexual harassment while she was a minor. Between the years of 2002 and 2003, R.Kelly was found with child pornography in both Illinois and Florida, and was later released on bail. In 2005, Andrea Kelly (wife) obtained an order of protection against Kelly, due to domestic violence. In 2017, #MuteRKelly was launched in efforts to boycott his music from streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple music. The following year, Faith Rodgers sued R. Kelly for sexual battery. From 2018-2020, R.Kelly was held in trial in several states due to sexual abuse counts. On September 27th, 2021, R. Kelly was officially convicted of nine counts and sentencing will occur on May 4th, 2022. 


In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.” –Judith Lewis Herman

Power is a common characteristic seen in cases of abuse with both adults and children. Abusers use power over their victim in order to get them to do anything they would like. Below, is the power and control wheel which includes isolation, intimidation, threats, economic abuse, etc. We can identify similar characteristics used in the power and control wheel and survivor’s experiences. In child abuse survivors, perpetrators are typically family friends and members,which therefore allows them to use their power over their victim as well as intimidation to get them to keep the abuse a secret. In adult abuse, perpetrators are typically people with advantage in the workforce, family members, and friends. 

The Cycle of violence is another common characteristic found in sexual abuse cases. The cycle of violence has three different stages: Honeymoon, Tension, and Violence. The honeymoon phase involves the abuser apologizing for their behavior and looking for reconciliation; they will blame the victim for their abusive behavior and/or will deny the abuse. The tension phase involves fear, guilt, and unpredictable behavior. In the violence phase, emotional, physical, financial, and sexual abuse will resume. 

Survivors of R. Kelly have shined a light on the power and control that perpetrators have over their victims. The strength and courage of the survivors has given other survivors of abuse the encouragement to speak against their perpetrators and seek justice. The R. Kelly cases have created a pathway into a conversation on abuse on social media outlets, dinner tables, and family/friend gatherings. If we continue having a conversation about power and the cycle of violence, we can help survivors stand up for themselves and seek justice!


Written by Evelyn Perez, ZCenter intern from Northeastern Illinois University.

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








Love is Stronger than Witchcraft: A Feminist Critique of 1942’s I Married a Witch

Author’s note: Although I refer to characters as men and women or male and female, I do not intend to uphold the false binary of man/woman. This is only a stylistic choice based on the beliefs and cultural milieu of 1942.

I Married a Witch (1942) is a rare fantasy/romantic comedy that gives us a glimpse of the patriarchy of the time alongside the agency of two female characters. We meet Jennifer,* a 17th Century witch, killed in a witch burning by local Puritan authorities. She and her father remain trapped in a tree’s roots for nearly 300 years, only to escape and meet Wooley, the descendant of the man who murdered them. Jennifer tries to seduce Wooley for payback, knowing his wedding is the next day. In a mixup with a potion, Jennifer becomes the one enamored and falls deeply in love with Wooley. Estelle, Wooley’s fiancée, ends up leaving Wooley at the altar after her father attempted to force her into the marriage; Jennifer wins her man only after her own father tries to interfere.

“Any man who marries, marries the wrong woman.”

What struck me initially about the film was the patriarchy bordering on misogyny. Daniel, Jennifer’s father, claims that “Any man who marries, marries the wrong woman.”  We also see that Wooley’s fiancée, Estelle, is labeled as a shrew for not smiling and not being complacent and weak; she also asks Wooley to stop smoking and drinking at various points in the film, obviously not the actions of the ideal meek and complacent housewife. Both female characters are told by their fathers who they can or cannot marry; Estelle is nearly forced to marry Wooley and Jennifer’s father takes away her powers to stop her from marrying him. Women are the property of men, whether it is their father or their husband, and that property is only referred to as girl. Wooley himself refers to both Jennifer and Estelle as girls

“That’s a good girl … Poor little girl, all alone in the world.”

Is the patriarchy just a sign of the times, a leftover from when the norm was to see women as second-class citizens? I don’t think we should overlook the patriarchy, nor the oppression, not when so many lives are impacted. The only person of color in the entire film is a slave from a flashback to the Revolutionary War. White privilege is normalized and never questioned. There also is no responsibility taken for generational oppression. Wooley is portrayed as “the good guy” with no acknowledgment from his character nor the film about how his ancestor burned witches. All of his wealth and socioeconomic status are built on the oppression of others.

Despite this context, we do see some agency from the female characters. In a world where white men hold all political and economic control, where women’s lives are controlled by men’s decisions, the two female characters still find some agency. Jennifer and Estelle’s fathers both try to control who they marry, yet both women are able to forge their own matrimonial path. Estelle walks out of her own wedding ceremony and Jennifer chooses to marry Wooley despite her father’s meddling. By the end of the film, we see Jennifer’s ultimate act of agency; she traps her father’s spirit in a bottle while she enjoys building a family with Wooley.

But we also see that Jennifer and Estelle internalize this oppression. Jennifer’s immediate concern once she is back in a human body is her appearance. She wants to make sure her appearance pleases Wooley. In the final scene, Jennifer and Wooley’s daughter plays on a broom, much to the disappointment of the housekeeper. Jennifer says, “I’m afraid we’re going to have trouble with her someday.” She herself had agency to make her own choices, but chastises her own daughter for claiming that same agency and finding joy in a tool of witchcraft. The film ends with Jennifer knitting while children encircle her. The acceptability of a powerful woman into fine society comes at a price. She must trade in her broom for needles, serving those around her as she knits them sweaters rather than flying through the night sky.

“I must start learning to be a good housewife … I’ll try so hard to be a good wife.” 

In a rare moment of clarity, the film hints at the importance of consent. Wooley forces water into Jennifer’s mouth when she has passed out and his friend offhandedly comments that “You should never force liquids on a person who is unconscious.” Writers were 80 years ahead of the tea video.

“You should never force liquids on a person who is unconscious.”

Jennifer gets what she wants in the end: marriage, children, and domestic quietude. But at what cost? She repeatedly claims that “love is stronger than witchcraft,” but it was her witchcraft that allowed her to have agency, powers, and choices. She could speak her mind as a witch. She could fly on broomsticks and light fires merely by speaking. She gave all of that up to “be a good housewife.” 

Had I been alive at the time, would I have gone to opening night of I Married a Witch on October 30, 1942? Of course. I would have made it a date night too, because love is stronger than witchcraft. But if there is a love that confronts oppression, racism, patriarchy, misogyny, and lack of consent, then maybe I’d rather have that love.


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor.

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


*The name Jennifer was not in use in the 17th Century, but we will forgive the writers who did not have Google at their fingertips in 1942.

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