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Victims take a ‘silent’ stand against crime

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center therapist JessicCarrasquillo Chicago takes part silent protest outside Lake County Courthouse Waukegan bring awareness sexual assault

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center therapist Jessica Carrasquillo of Chicago takes part in a silent protest outside the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan to bring awareness to sexual assault crimes. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

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3 in every 10 people are victimized by crime.

People ages 16-24 are most often victimized by crime. They also commit the most crime.

About 15,000 people were murdered in 2010. Of those, about 37 percent of homicide victims were killed by an acquaintance; about 22 percent were killed by a stranger; 18 percent murdered by intimate partner; about 15 percent killed by family member, about 5 percent were killed by a friend

Source:, Gallup

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Updated: June 26, 2013 2:33AM

Like many grieving adults who bury loved ones, Chanel of Waukegan turned to the clergy for support after she lost her mother. A community minister reached back to her and cultivated a friendship until he made an uninvited house call.

That’s when the minister took her by surprise and sexually assaulted her.

“My voice was stolen ... the only way to get it back is to go through the criminal justice system and get some help. The sooner you do it, the better,” Chanel said.

Her attacker was charged with sexual assault, but never convicted. He has since moved out of the area. Three years later, Chanel is still healing.

She got through the criminal justice process thanks to a victim advocate from Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center (Z Center). Her advocate connected her with counseling and other services.

“I had some good support ... they were there for me. Thank God for the Zacharias Center,” Chanel said.

More than a dozen community members and Z Center staff members stood outside the Waukegan courthouse Friday to stand as silent witnesses to sexual abuse.

The objective was to bring awareness, said Wendy Ivy, Z Center director of outreach and community services.

“Perpetrators are banking on the silence from the victim. They’re hoping (victims) stay silent. It’s difficult for survivors to come forward. We want to break that silence,” Ivy said.

Chanel said she had difficulty coming forward at first.

Victims like Chanel aren’t always aware of their rights following a sexual assault, Ivy said.

April 21 through 27 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“I don’t think a lot of folks, whether it’s sexual assault, domestic violence or some other crime, even know they have rights at all,” Ivy said.

Sexual assault survivors have the right to go to the emergency room following an assault and don’t have to pay for anything.

They also have a right to emergency contraceptives, Ivy said.

They also have a right to an advocate to help them through the criminal justice process. Chanel said she would have been bewildered without her advocate.

The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office employs 13 victim advocates, communications manager Cynthia Trujillo-Vargas said.

“I think they’re one of our major pieces to our office. It’s one of the divisions that plays a significant role in our office,” Trujillo-Vargas said.

The advocated educate victims on their case status and provide support and resources throughout the process. Advocates from the state’s attorney’s office ensure the Crime Victims Bill of Rights is enforced.

This bill is part of Illinois Constitution and gives victims the ability to assert their rights and have a voice in the criminal justice system.

Rights include receiving notice of court proceedings, to be present at trial and to make a statement at sentencing.

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