ZCenter: 2021-2022

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center (ZCenter) provides free Counseling and Advocacy services to survivors of sexual violence and their non-offending loved ones. To further their mission, they provide Prevention Education Services to classrooms throughout Lake and Northern Cook Counties at no cost. Recognizing that prevention education is a key factor for ending sexual violence, ZCenter has developed research-based, Erin’s Law-approved, age-appropriate workshops that aid youth from Pre-K–College to understand their rights to their bodies and ways to seek help if they experience sexual abuse. Students are more likely to seek help if they know they will be supported, validated, and believed. These services include virtual professional development sessions for youth workers and school staff, as well as multi-age digital e-learning resources for the school districts. These programs help attendees identify warning signs of abuse and instruct them on the correct ways to respond if a minor discloses that they have been abused.

As part of their Prevention Education curriculum for students in Pre-K through 2nd grade, ZCenter used grant funding from the Washington Square Healthcare Foundation to help create friendly cartoon characters to present this difficult but important information to these young students. This project is one piece of a larger project in which ZCenter hopes to create a series of these cartoons to enhance its already well received curriculum.

Meet Blair and Beau, two of the characters that help their Preventionist teach young students about “Safe Touch.” The feedback from the children attending these workshops is overwhelmingly positive and they often request to watch it multiple times during the presentation. While ZCenter works with all schools in their service area, they prioritize under-resourced and under-served schools to help provide State of Illinois required materials. During the 2021-2022 school year, they reached over 10,000 students and are projected to reach even more in this current school year. ZCenter is grateful for WSHF’s support towards helping developing this curriculum and teaching young students about their bodily autonomy.