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History of Zacharias Center

The Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center’s story begins in August of 1981, when the Advisory Board and Coordinating Council of Lake County Health Department formed a Rape Victim Advocacy Task Force to study the need for rape victim advocacy services in northern Illinois. Their findings documented that current services to rape victims were inadequate and fragmented. The result of these findings was the creation of the Lake County Council Against Sexual Assault (or LaCASA), a grassroots organization whose mission was: To provide a place where survivors of sexual assault and abuse can heal and mobilize the community toward action to end sexual violence.

Based upon the need for comprehensive programs it was determined that McHenry, Lake and Northern Cook County of Illinois were to be the geographic service areas of the agency. In response to the needs assessment, three programs for the community were created: Advocacy, Prevention Education and Counseling. Advocacy provides crisis intervention and immediate emergency support to child and adult victims of sexual assault and abuse in hospitals and police departments, as well as a 24-hour support line.  Prevention Education services are delivered to children in grade, middle and high school in conjunction with Prevention Education material delivered to the children’s parents and school personnel. These workshops help children learn safety strategies in the event of a traumatic situation.  Counseling services are offered in both individual and group settings in order to help child and adult victims and their families to develop healthy strategies for coping with trauma.

In 1991, the family and friends of Richard Zacharias established a charitable fund in his memory, and LaCASA was selected as the beneficiary. With this support, LaCASA was able to offer counseling to children for the first time.

In 1997, the LaCASA opened a new building to house operations after raising $1.8 million in a community-wide effort. The inclusion of input from sexual abuse victims, in designing the building, was highly intentional and necessary in order to create an environment which would be experienced by clients as safe. The building incorporates areas of design that support this premise, with open spaces, multiple and large windows allowing for extra light, high ceilings, soft-tone colors, outdoor garden areas for contemplation and relaxation and comfortable furniture.  In 2008, to recognize the contribution of the Zacharias Foundation and to more accurately reflect the agency mission, the center was renamed the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center.

We have been Lake County’s only rape crisis center for nearly 40 years.  Counseling and advocacy services are provided free of charge and in English and Spanish.  The Zacharias Center’s staff and volunteers believe that all rape survivors deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and support.  We are always striving to help heal the clients who have been victimized by sexual assault and to engage the community to get involved in helping to reduce the threat of rape now and in the future.

In spring of 2016, the Zacharias Center opened a new office in Skokie in underserved northern Cook County. This was made possible by a generous grant by the North Suburban Healthcare Foundation.  Counseling and information and referral services are offered in this beautiful new space.


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