“True community is based upon equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together.”
In order to create true change, you need to take lessons out of the workshop and into the community. Last month, in partnership with Franklin & Marshall College, we reimagined our traditional Racial Equity Institute to create a new, multi-disciplinary look at racial justice, equity, and how those principles can be–and are–applied to Lancaster County and beyond.
This new, multi-day approach was part workshop, part community immersion. The morning featured content from our Racial Equity Institute curricula, where participants worked on developing a common language and understanding needed to dismantle racism and to communicate with others about its manifestations, while also developing working tools to identify and address racism within themselves and their everyday lives.
In the afternoon, participants partnered with local grassroots organizations that were embedded in this work to do service projects and to learn from leaders who were translating ideas into action on the ground in Lancaster. Thank you to Lititz Chooses Love, F&M Blackbirds, and Nelson Polite Jr. for their partnership!
As our community continues to grapple with challenges from the pandemic, restriction of women’s rights, and the ongoing pursuit of racial justice, we need each other more than ever. Building understanding, shared language, and deeper knowledge around the importance of eliminating racism and empowering women in Lancaster County and beyond will help our entire community to thrive. Through partnership with community organizations and leaders, we can better learn from each other, and build solidarity around our shared future.
YWCA Lancaster, along with other community partners, is preparing to launch our County’s first Racial Equity Profile in fall of 2022, an interactive resource that can help us to better understand not just the obstacles we face as a community, but the rich opportunity available to us when we invest in ways to support all of our residents.
We’re proud to continue to partner with you, community organizations, and local leaders to learn together, and to build a just future.
At YWCA Lancaster, our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women is more vital than ever. We’re thankful to have an incredible community behind us–from organizations to corporations, individuals to elected officials from all parties– who want to join together to meet our mission!
We are proud to update our community on some important recent investments in our programming: these grants, donations, and contract renewals help us to continue to meet the needs Lancaster County, in all parts of the county, and in so many areas of residents’ lives. Whether it’s childcare, counseling, career development, parent empowerment, or community building, YWCA Lancaster is proud to join with you in promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
Black Artist Waystation was conceived to increase the visibility and support of Black Artists in the Lancaster community. Through the program, our aim is to be a catalyst for artists who create works that define the movement toward freedom and recognize the many efforts that brought us to this moment. Details about the 2022-3 program will be available soon!
We’re also partnering with the Touchstone Foundation to implement the Healthy Relationship Project: a researched-based, trauma-informed, and age-appropriate child sexual abuse prevention curriculum created by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont!
The mission of YWCA Lancaster has not changed since the 70’s and remains, to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. We’re proud to partner with community members, elected officials, leaders, organizations, and businesses to help make that mission a reality.
Since 1889, since before women had the right to vote, since before the equal rights for Black Americans were codified, and through two global pandemics we have remained steadfast in our service to community. We have been in this community for more than 130 years, and continually adapt to meet community needs until our mission is met.
The following is a Local Voices piece originally published in LNP on July 15, 2022.Read on LNP
We are practicing clinicians at YWCA Lancaster: Our work in preventing sexual assault, abuse and harassment is built on choice and consent. It’s a value we center, and a value that is in jeopardy in our community, and country.
The recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, has had a significant impact for the Lancaster County victims and survivors we serve. Community members are reaching out to express feelings of unease, anger, fear and frustration with the loss of rights due to the recent decision. Traumas are being resurfaced and painful memories revived. For those in this situation, we are here for you.
The YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center has been serving this community as our county’s only rape crisis center for more than 35 years. We have a presence at colleges and universities across the county, offer a 24-hour hotline, provide support at hospitals for sexual assault exams, and offer prevention programs at schools and no-cost group and individual counseling in multiple locations. Adults and children across our county are impacted by sexual violence, harassment and abuse every day, and calls to our hotline are increasing.
It’s a misconception that sexual violence is about lust. It’s about power. When sexual assault occurs, bodily autonomy and control are taken from an individual by the perpetrator. Working with our community, we help survivors determine who to tell and when, what to share and what to hold, whether to report and how best to seek protection. We seek consent, centering the power of choice in how one’s own body is used.
It’s also a misconception that this latest Supreme Court ruling is about “life.” It’s about power. Each state now can decide if an individual should carry any pregnancy, no matter the source, the age, the impact. The right to choose is gone. The power to control and manage one’s own body is gone. Just as it was during the assault.
Pregnancy resulting from sexual violence is not uncommon and being forced to carry a pregnancy under these circumstances feels like punishment for being assaulted, one that manifests repeatedly over time in multiple ways. We know this because we hear it from our clients; it is sometimes a minute-by-minute reminder of your assault.
Following are some of our other concerns.
— This ruling will force survivors to disclose their assault before they are ready or to lie about how the pregnancy occurred. What if you are not prepared to tell your parents or partner of an assault?
— This ruling may force survivors to maintain ties to the perpetrator and in some states, perpetrators can maintain custodial rights. Why are we forcing people who are pregnant to remain in unsafe situations, for them and the baby they’re being mandated to carry?
— This ruling leaves the door open for trauma as a prerequisite for care. Some supporters of abortion bans claim that allowing exceptions in cases of incest or rape protects survivors. Why must individuals have to endure trauma to be allowed control over their own bodies?
— This ruling will disproportionately harm the Black community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of dying from pregnancy is three times more likely for Black women. Why are we forcing this risk on members of our community?
— Survivors who are nonbinary, transgender or gender-expansive may feel left out by exclusive language about who is impacted by the Supreme Court decision. We know that all people of all gender identities can — and do — get pregnant and need abortions. We serve these individuals every day, and we work to advocate for their needs and place in this movement.
While we work with law enforcement and prosecution professionals, the fact remains that we have a criminal justice system, not a victim justice system. Assault survivors already face barriers to being believed and to navigating systems of support and response. Adding a lifetime of impact to survivors through forced birth is unthinkable.
Abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania, but some members of the state Legislature are actively working to end this choice. It is up to us as a community to make our voice heard, protect our rights and ensure our community does not suffer the consequences of these harmful, anti-choice policies. We invite you to visitYWCALancaster.orgto learn more and take action. Believing survivors means centering their best interests, their choices.
YWCA Lancaster has always been at the forefront of making sure our community members are able to decide when, and if, to grow their families. Abortion is a personal decision. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a fundamental right. And we will never back down.
The column was authored by the staff of YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center: Susan Hall, Mandy Billman, Danielle Perez, Yoangelys Cedeno, Danielle Harvey and Aleah Tyson.
YWCA Lancaster runs a 24-hour, locally operated sexual assault hotline, 717-392-7273, that connects callers to free, confidential counseling and therapy services for community members impacted by sexual abuse, harassment or assault.
The following is a Local Voices piece originally published in LNP on May 15, 2022. Read on LNP
It might sound like a cliche, but it bears repeating: Abortion is a personal decision. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a fundamental right.
It bears repeating because there are people, organizations and institutions that are actively working to undermine our community’s ability to access safe health care.
It bears repeating because there are people whose livelihoods — and lives — are being placed in jeopardy by the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned.
It bears repeating because, while the decision to access an abortion is a personal choice, access to it is something that affects the future of Lancaster County.
It is personal. But fundamentally, we are all impacted together.
And while it may be fundamental, that does not mean it was not hard fought. We are mothers by choice, a choice that was won through the sacrifices of generations of activists and advocates, specifically Black women. It is because of their work so many people have been able to access this fundamental right.
As it stands, this will be the first generation to have fewer rights than the generation before. Unless we act now, together.
Let’s start with some important facts:
Abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania and the United States. The leaked decision from the U.S. Supreme Court is just a draft and not legally binding until a final version is issued by the court.
If Roe is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion. Pennsylvania is not one of those states, though we will become the nearest resource for neighboring states.
Abortion bans do nothing to stop abortion rates, and disproportionately impact lower-income people, and people and families of color.
You, we and everyone in Lancaster County have benefited from a society that allows safe and legal access to abortion.
YWCA Lancaster has always been at the forefront of making sure our community members are able to decide when, and if, to grow their families. And we will never back down.
Our work impacts women and people of all backgrounds. And this ruling, if codified, will impact them, too. We know it because we live it. Every day our doors are open to community members looking to grow their understanding of anti-racism; parents dropping their children off for day care; victim survivors seeking counseling for sexual assault; and residents who are in need of affordable or safe housing. A decision that impacts their ability to control their own futures affects all of us.
It is personal. But fundamentally, we are all impacted together.
From every metric, restricting the right of individuals and families to make their own decisions hurts our community and disproportionately causes harm to families of color. Denying the right to safe and legal abortion will stop countless members of our community from being able to pursue their goals, contribute new and innovative ideas, and move our county forward. A ban will ensnare the economically disadvantaged and people of color in an inequitable health care and child care system. Most importantly, it will force many who are desperate to terminate their pregnancies to seek dangerous and unsafe ways to achieve it, risking their lives.
The advocacy organization SisterLove Inc. has a useful tool for tracking the impact of Roe v. Wade being overturned. Using it, you can see that if Roe is reversed, Pennsylvania’s abortion protections will remain in place. However, we are a “nearest clinic” state, meaning that if this draft decision comes to pass, then our already burdened health care system will be strained as individuals seek help here. The best, safest and most beneficial way forward for our community is to keep abortion access legal.
It is a personal decision. But fundamentally, we are all impacted together.
Every day, we are privileged to engage with people who are seeking the freedom to choose: whether it’s a new career path, a fresh start from a dangerous living situation or the next chapter in their journey toward healing from sexual assault. The freedom to choose is sacred; one we honor and vow to protect.
YWCA Lancaster will continue to fight for our community members’ ability to choose their own futures and to have freedom over where, when or if to grow their families. We will continue to fight with the women and people we serve and the women and people we haven’t yet served. We will continue to fight for our community’s best interests.
So we will repeat it until it truly is a cliche: Abortion is a personal decision. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a fundamental right.
Because fundamentally, we are all impacted together.
Stacie Blake is CEO of YWCA Lancaster. Deborah Wilson Gadsden is the organization’s board chair.
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