Z-TAP (Zonta Training and Advocacy Program) is a project run by the Westminster Free Clinic that trains individuals to recognize, prevent and effectively respond to abuse. Begun in 2006, it received annual financial support from the  Zonta Conejo Valley Area club. Over 600 women have been trained through 7-week training programs held at four different schools in the area. Word about this very popular and effective program has spread.

Goal of Z-TAP: to reach the women in need of the program, let them know resources available, empower them to help others and in the process, help themselves, and have children grow up in non-violent families.

Need: Studies estimate that 10 to 20 percent of children are at risk for exposure to domestic violence (Carlton 2000). Research indicates children exposed to domestic violence are at an increased risk of being abused or neglected.  Children who witness regular acts of domestic violence have greater emotional and behavioral problems than other children. According to the California Department of Justice, there were about 7,500 reported cases of domestic violence in Ventura County in 2012. That figure has increased to over 8,000 in 2014.  According to the department of justice, 14 percent of Ventura County residents reported some type of domestic violence in their homes.  That’s more than double the state average of 6.7 percent. This statistic has continued in 2016. In the VCHCA Transforming Ventura County Communities Report, calls for domestic violence are on the rise in Ventura County, and the rate has doubled in the past 20 years.

Z-TAP is vital in reaching vulnerable populations with domestic violence issues. People who are low wage earners cannot afford counseling and many would culturally not acknowledge they are in domestic violence situations. While other nonprofit programs addresses domestic violence issues, it does not reach the population we serve where the stigma of violence, especially domestic violence is great. The low-income Latino population we serve in East Ventura County, needs a program that is offered in Spanish and is a Train-the-Trainer model that doesn’t directly acknowledge their family is having problems. Z-TAP has been effective the past ten years because it is a training and advocacy program and the instructor is trusted by this hard-to-reach Latino population. Participants are empowered to help others and in the process, help themselves. Families experiencing domestic violence need tools to make changes and make plans to keep their children safe. Z-TAP is a cost-effective, innovative approach that allows families to feel safe to talk about domestic violence.

Program: Z-TAP paraprofessional training program provides a safe environment for women to learn about domestic violence and what they can do, how to raise non-violent children, as well as signs and symptom of depression, anxiety and teen suicide. When they graduate from the 7-week program they receive a certificate, and those who are interested are asked to help be instructors for the next classes. Others are encouraged to share the information they learned with their community. Many attend who would not do so if it was a traditional domestic violence program. Because the women are going to a training to learn how to be advocates, they are willing to attend and many are able to help themselves and their family in the process. Women become very open and share their challenges during the sessions. Each year, women in domestic violence situations are empowered to help themselves and make a plan for a better future as a result of Z-TAP. All the participants are taught how to advocate for and inform friends, neighbors and community members where the domestic violence resources are in their community, to help families find positive ways to discipline, deal with anger, or address other issues that bring on violence in their families, and to share information about basic signs and symptoms of depression, and anxiety. The knowledge gained keeps on having an impact after the 7 week course ends. Free individual and family counseling at Westminster Free Clinic is offered to participants for any type of mental health need. The women are referred for more comprehensive support to local domestic violence shelters and programs.

Curriculum: The curriculum comes from the National Program ACT (Adults and Children Together against Violence) which is research based and support through the MET Life Foundation. Training materials in Spanish and English are purchased through this organization. The evaluation tool developed by ACT is also used before and at the end of the session to measure changes in knowledge and behavior. At the graduation ceremony, women invite their children and husbands to see them honored. It is a very special event and for many it is the first graduation they have ever had. Gift cards are provided to participants to recognize completion of the training program and to thank them for sharing the information with their community. Each training program averages 25 graduates with over 30 participants. To graduate the participant must attend 6 of the 7 classes.

“I recently went through the process of getting a divorce because of domestic violence and thanks to the z-tap program I found the courage to make my decision to stop living in that sad and hard situation. Now my children and I are happier and safe.” (Z-tap program graduate)

2018 Objective: Offer at least 6 programs to reach a total of at least 175 participants. Classes are offered by a first generation, bi-lingual program instructor, Rocio, during the day and in the evenings. Rocio is outstanding and relates well to this community. Schools hear about the program and ask to have the training at their site. In addition to the pre and post evaluations measuring change in knowledge and attitudes, the stories the woman share regarding domestic violence in their families are powerful and validates the need for the program. Z-TAP helps woman heal and find their strength.