Join Everyday Law as we discuss the advocacy of the Zacharias Center with Public Health Advocate, Mallory Tucker.

Mallory Tucker is a public health advocate with the Zacharias Center of Gurnee which provides free counselling and advocacy services for survivors of sexual assault and abuse, as well as prevention education. The Center also has a 24-hour anonymous phone line (847) 872-7799.Tucker oversees direct advocacy services which includes medical and legal advocacy. The Center does not provide legal advice but does give information and links survivors to services within the legal system. In addition to 2 full-time public health advocates, there are over 60 trained medical advocacy volunteers with the Zacharias Center. These volunteers receive over 40 hours of training and assist survivors when needed. The goals of the Center are to support, validate and empower survivors.

Advocacy services for survivors may start in 1 of 3 ways; a call from a hospital’s ER department, a call to the Center’s 24-hour phone line or from a survivor receiving counselling services from the Center. Hospitals in Lake County will call the Center when a patient reports that they have experienced sexual violence. An advocate from the Center will come to the hospital to meet with the survivor. The advocate will bring extra clothing, a teddy bear and a folder of information for the survivor. The advocate will stay with the survivor for the duration of the hospital visit, if desired by the survivor.

Illinois legislation ensures that survivors of sexual assault/abuse have access to care (wellness exam, prophylactic treatment and evidence collection) with no out of pocket costs. The advocate will inform, not advise, the survivor of their rights. If the assault/abuse occurred within 7 days of the hospital visit, survivors have the option of evidence being collected for possible prosecution of a crime. Additionally, the survivor has the option of deciding whether or not to have the collected evidence analyzed by a crime lab (up to 5 years from the date of collection). Even if a survivor goes to a hospital after the 7-day time frame, a survivor is still entitled to a wellness exam and prophylactic treatment with no out of pocket charges.

It is important to note that rape crisis personnel, such as the Zacharias Center advocates, share the privilege of absolute confidentiality with the survivors they serve, similar to attorney-client privilege. It is important that the survivors feel comfortable sharing information with their advocate and not be concerned that the advocate they confide in might be subject to a subpoena to testify in court about the case. There are 2 exceptions to this confidentiality; mandated reporting to DCFS and in the instance where an advocate believes a survivor is in imminent danger. Ultimately, though, an advocate will not reveal any information shared with them unless the survivor wants that information revealed.

Survivors must navigate the medical and legal system; both of which can be very intimidating, especially after trauma. Tucker feels that the Zacharias Center is a welcome and comforting place where survivors and those who care about them can feel cared for and supported. She also commends the professionalism of medical, law enforcement and legal personnel in Lake County who work with survivors on a daily basis.