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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.

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.

November Lunch & Learn Webinars

Join us for our November Lunch & Learn Webinars. Each are free, but we do ask that you register in advance.


Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and How It Affects Our Veterans

Thursday, November 11

12:00pm Central Time

Register here.

Sexual Assault and the Law

Thursday, November 18

12:00pm Central Time

Register here.


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.








The Power in Reclaiming Femininity

Note: Throughout this article, “women” is used to refer to cisgender and transgender women, as well as non-binary femme-identified people; this is a stylistic choice only and not intended to equate or universalize different peoples’ experiences and identities.

If I had a dollar for everytime I was told, “you throw like a girl,” or “you run like a girl” I would be on the Forbes list for Billionaires under 25 (maybe that is an exaggeration, but you get the point). While my parents fought this message, it was one that I heard from many other adults and kids. It made me feel ashamed. It made me feel like if I embraced femininity, I was somehow weaker, more fragile, and less then. So I completely rejected it. I said One Direction was for girly-girls, I thought pink was ugly, and I thought princesses were useless. I rejected the feminine because I thought that is what I needed to do, so I could achieve those big dreams. 

So where does this rejection of femininity come from? Why do we still view masculinity as the ideal? The Second Wave of Feminism (also known as Women’s Liberation) fought against the roles that women were being forced into. The key word here is FORCED, but it was taken too far. We thought that the rejection of femininity was an ideal form of reclamation. That it wasn’t that masculinity was dominating, but that femininity was a sign of submission. A part of this is because of the gender binary understanding of society. As explained by Philippe Leonard Fradet, femininity and masculinity are viewed as opposites of each other. Therefore, the idea of claiming femininity is often associated with the loss of dreams. People who are feminine are destined to become JUST a wife, JUST a mother, and not see themselves as the CEO of a Fortune 500. It is not wrong to want to be a wife or a mother, and we know that these are not easy jobs, by any means, but it is the idea that embracing your femininity means choosing. You cannot be a femininie CEO, a femininie astronaut. As they say, it is a “man’s world.” We broke up with femininity long ago and now many of us are looking to make up with it. 

But femininity and masculinity are not opposites of each other, and it’s important that we embrace both sets of qualities in whatever ways make us the most comfortable and feel the most like ourselves. Embracing femininity is not just about female-identifying individuals enjoying things that society tells them are “girly,” but it’s about tending to one’s emotions, perhaps getting in touch with our creative side, and connecting with each other in a collaborative and nurturing way. When we utilize our feminine side of collaboration and working together, it lends us another tool in fighting against oppression. We can break away from the binary of men needing to be strong and masculine and women need to be simple and submissive, to create a society where each individual leans on masculinity/femininity at different levels depending on what they need at that moment. 

So how do we get there? How can we embrace our femininity when for so long we have been told to repress it? It’s not easy, and definitely not achieved overnight, and can start small. Setting aside time for yourself to get creative– whether that’s painting or knitting or just simple pencil drawing–and to get in touch with your imagination where anything is possible. Maybe it’s wearing something pink, even though you rejected the color when you were younger. It is learning to love what you were told to hate, because it was girly. Embracing your femininity is seeking community, and talking with close friends or family. Start where it feels natural for you, and continue from there. There is no right way or one way to embrace one’s femininity– so make it your own.

Written by Sarah Brennan, MSW, Volunteer and Activism Coordinator, and Cassidy Herberth, Education and Prevention 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.











Jennifer’s Body and the Feminine Revenge Trope Hollywood Has Been Missing Out

In a small town in Minnesota, there lives a teenage girl named Jennifer Check. She is popular, attractive, and reckless. Her best friend, Anita “Needy” Lesnicki, is the opposite and serves to show just how wild Jennifer is. One night after a concert, Jennifer leaves with the band. The band wants power, fame, and riches. In order to achieve this, they agree to sacrifice Jennifer to Satan but not before confirming she is, of course, a virgin. She lies and says she is, which results in a catastrophe for the town. Now, possessed by a demon who is only satisfied by eating human flesh, Jennifer begins a rampage against the boys in her town by enticing them with sex and then killing them. Jennifer’s Body redefined the genre of horror, comedy, and what it means to be a young woman in the world. It only took 12 years, but this movie is finally getting the recognition it deserves. 

When Jennifer’s Body, starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried, first premiered in 2009, it did awful in the box office. It had a budget of $16 million dollars and it made about that much. It was so awful, in fact, that the Chicago Tribune labeled it a “gruesome paint-by-bloody-numbers succubus story.” I was only nine years old when the movie first premiered, so I did not get to watch it. But I remember my friend’s older sister did. She loved it. We sat around the kitchen table as she recounted a story about a young woman who was sexualized and vilified (but of course being nine we did not know what this meant, rather it was her strength and sense of self), but rather than let herself be defined by others, she was reclaiming the labels of “slut” and “sex.” It would be another 6 years until I would watch the movie for myself, but it was everything I needed to hear at that moment. 

It is only recently that the cult following of Jennifer’s Body has grown. While in quarantine, many people have been going back and watching movies that came out in the early 2000s, such as Jennifer’s Body, and people got to talking about how overlooked it was. They realized that this movie was not awful; it was just marketed to the wrong crowd at the wrong time. And the actors knew that this is what the movie had coming. When asked about the movie Megan Fox said, “I am on display for men to pay to look at me.” Vox writer, Constance Grady writes that this was a movie that was targeted towards young teen boys by offering up sexualized images of Megan Fox on the poster and on the trailer. Rather than be a “sexy movie” for teenage boys, the director offers this as an explanation of who this movie is for and what it is about:

“This movie is a commentary on girl-on-girl hatred, sexuality, the death of innocence, and politics, in the way the town responds to the tragedies [of the bloody deaths of several young men]. Any person who dares to respond in an unconventional way is branded a traitor.”  -Diablo Cody

So what does all this mean? Why should we care that a movie like Jennifer’s body is finally getting the recognition that it deserves? Well, it shows us that we are not alone. That when a group of men want to sacrifice the body of a woman so that they can gain more power and sway, that we have the power to tell that story, when we want and how we want. That when men see women as disposable, as there for them to use and discard (like what we often see in Hollywood), there is a chance at a beacon of hope. It also shows how the movie industry works and who is dictating what a “successful movie” is. Because to 9-year-old, 15-year-old, and 20-year-old Cassidy Herberth, Jennifer’s Body is the movie that was successful. It was a movie that changed everything. It was a movie that said, “you know what, you are not alone.”

Jennifer’s Body tells the story, albeit a horror story, about a young girl who is discovering what it means to be both a victim and a survivor. It is a story that was ahead of its time, but it is still not as widely recognized as it should be. Jennifer’s Body tells the story of many people out there, and I, for one, hope there is only more to come.


Written by Cassidy Herberth, Education and Prevention 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. 


Peitzman, L., 2021. You Probably Owe “Jennifer’s Body” An Apology. [online] Buzzfeednews.com. Available at: <https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/louispeitzman/jennifers-body-diablo-cody-karyn-kusama-feminist-horror>.

Grady, C., 2021. How Jennifer’s Body went from a flop in 2009 to a feminist cult classic today. [online] Vox. Available at: <https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/10/31/18037996/jennifers-body-flop-cult-classic-feminist-horror> [Accessed 17 August 2021].

IMDb. 2021. Jennifer’s Body (2009) – IMDb. [online] Available at: <https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1131734/plotsummary> [Accessed 17 August 2021].

Hirschberg, L., 2021. The Self-Manufacture of Megan Fox (Published 2009). [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/magazine/15Fox-t.html> [Accessed 17 August 2021].

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