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Reaching victim survivors in new ways

As the rape crisis center for Lancaster County, YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center has been advocating for and supporting victim survivors of sexual abuse, harassment, and assault for more than three decades. This fall we are excited to unveil a new campaign to inform Lancaster County about our 24-Hour Sexual Assault Hotline and our other services.  In partnership with local companies Red Rose Transit, Oaktree Advertising, and ClickUpon, you can find these new opportunities to connect on RRTA busses, in Red Rose Transit bus shelters across the county, on roads throughout Lancaster, and on your Instagram and Facebook feeds!

In addition to our downtown Lancaster location, we serve community members in Columbia at a satellite location, as well as at other confidential spaces throughout the county. We are hoping that these new ads will reach even more folks who might benefit from our services.

In addition to outside advertising, we have placed ads on the interior of buses. To assist with easily accessing information about our services, the interior bus ads include QR codes that can be scanned by passengers. The passenger will be immediately linked to resources from SAPCC including our hotline information and counseling information, as well as have the option to save our 24-hour Sexual Assault Hotline number for future use.


For three decades we have been responding to community needs and victim survivors’ needs and we are thrilled to be promoting the resources available in our community through this educational and awareness campaign.

Want to help power this work? Our next Sexual Assault Hotline Training is starting this month!

For questions and registration, contact Danielle Harvey: wehearyou@ywcalancaster.org

YWCA Lancaster Launches New Victim Assistance Program

YWCA Lancaster is proud to announce the launch of the Legal Assistance for Victims Program in collaboration with Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County. This initiative is funded by an award from the US Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

The Legal Assistance for Victims Program is intended to increase the availability of civil and criminal legal assistance needed to effectively aid adult and youth victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking by providing funds for comprehensive direct legal services to victims in legal matters relating to or arising out of that abuse or violence.

This three year, half million-dollar federal grant will expand and strengthen the capacity of YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center (SAPCC) and Community Action Partnership (CAP)’s Domestic Violence Services (DVS) of Lancaster County’s Domestic Violence (DV) Legal Center, offering civil legal services to victim survivors free of charge. To provide these services, the agencies have now hired a full-time attorney to handle civil legal matters, as well as a full-time legal advocate, both of whom began this month.

Emily Gracie will support the work of YWCA Lancaster as the agency’s Legal Advocate, and Monica Baturin will serve as the attorney supporting CAP’s DVS program.

Senator Bob Casey and Representative Lloyd Smucker provided key support for the proposed new services to highlight the need for more resources for survivors across Lancaster County.

“The launch of YWCA Lancaster’s Legal Assistance for Victims program will substantially expand the organization’s capacity to provide free legal services to Pennsylvanians who need it,” said Senator Casey. “I am proud to have delivered federal funding to help survivors of abuse overcome financial barriers to seeking the justice and accountability they deserve.”

“I am thankful the YWCA of Lancaster is the recipient of funds from the Legal Assistance for Victims grant program, enabling them to support survivors in our community. I was proud to back the YWCA’s application for funding and appreciate their efforts to expand this vital outreach to survivors. Our Lancaster community is strengthened through partnerships like this. I commend the YWCA and the other organizations that participate in this critical program to help and serve survivors in our community,” said Rep. Smucker.

“Through this cross-agency collaboration and with unwavering, bipartisan support from our partners in Senator Casey and Representative Smucker, YWCA Lancaster will be able to continue and expand its mission of eliminating racism and empowering women,” said CEO Stacie Blake, “Together, we will be supporting victim survivors in Lancaster County, advocating for justice and accountability, and building an ever-stronger movement to end sexual violence in our community.”

Join the movement:

Learn more at our Sexual Assault Hotline Meet & Greet on August 30!


3 Questions with: Starleisha Gingrich


Starleisha Gingrich is our Communications and Outreach Specialist for YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center (SAPCC), and is leading the efforts to increase awareness about the services SAPCC provides, as well as the ways that community members like you help power our mission to end sexual violence!


On August 30, YWCA Lancaster will be hosting a Sexual Assault Hotline Meet & Greet at Southern Market where community members can join us for food, conversation, and connection with our team and to learn about how they can get involved in our 24 hour, locally operated sexual assault hotline.

First off, what is YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Hotline?
The 24/7 Sexual Assault Hotline is operated by volunteers and supported by center staff. Folks in Lancaster County may utilize the hotline for several reasons, including, but not limited to: crisis intervention services related to victimization, inquires about counseling, questions about resources, requests for medical advocacy to local hospitals, and requests for legal advocacy.


Why are volunteers important to our mission?

Without our volunteers the hotline could not function the way it needs to in order to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Joining us as a volunteer on the hotline is a great way to give back to the Lancaster Community. The YWCA Lancaster’s mission is to empower women and eliminate racism and as we fight for justice, we must recognize that sexual violence impacts everyone. We can only further our mission by working with our volunteers to support victim survivors of sexual violence.


What can we expect at our meet and greet?

The meet and greet is going to be a casual event with food, and opportunity to talk with our staff and current hotline volunteers to learn more about our 40 hour training class that anyone interested in volunteering for the hotline is required to take. We will have hotline swag available for folks to take home and share with friends and family, and even some prizes! I’m really looking forward to this event and I am excited to meet new folks and educate people on our hotline!


We’ll see you on August 30!

Sexual Assault Hotline Meet and Greet

Wednesday, August 30
5 – 7pm
Southern Market Lancaster
100 S. Queen St. Lancaster Pa 17603
Click here to register for August 30:


Summer Enrichment Programs!

When your child attends summer day camps at YWCA Lancaster, they aren’t just walking away with new friends and skills, they are taking with them a newfound confidence in themselves and a lifetime of summer memories! From character development and friendships to fun activities and field trips, summer day camps at YWCA Lancaster have a little something for everyone! 



This exciting summer opportunity is open to all female-identifying students aged 9-14, and is offered at no cost!  TechGYRLS will feature opportunities for participants to learn about exciting STEM subjects from local experts! Spots are limited so register today!

Zoology – June 20th-30th, 9:30am-3pm

Tech & Robotics – July 10-21st 9:30am-3pm

Please register here!


Empowerment Day!

YWCA Lancaster is offering a FREE day camp for female-identifying children, ages 9-14, titled “Empowerment Day.” The day will focus on self-love and empowerment by building connections with others and exploring one’s own experiences. Throughout the day, children will participate in crafts, discussion, and activities related to topics such as gender roles, self-esteem, body-image, drug and alcohol prevention, relationships, and more!

Empowerment Days take place July 12th & July 27th, 9am -5pm each day

Children may only attend one Empowerment Day camp.

Please register here!


Rise Above Youth Summit (FULL)

The Rise Above youth summit is a collaboration between YWCA Lancaster, the Touchstone Foundation, a nonprofit focused on youth mental wellness, and The Hood Hippie Love Yourself, a clothing brand. Throughout the summit students will be challenged and encouraged to understand different perspectives when it comes to mental health. With each workshop that students participate in, they will be tasked to build up their general knowledge of mental health, learn about resources and understand the nuances about what mental health is and isn’t. Students will also be asked to explore their creativity through different mediums of art.

The program will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays (8 sessions) throughout July into August.

Tuesday: July 11th, July 18th, July 25th and August 1st

Thursday:  July 13th, July 20th, July 27th and August 3rd

Please register here!

New SAFE-T Program to Enhance Victim Survivor Support

No one should feel alone after they have experienced a potentially traumatic event. That’s why our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center is standing by with our 24-hour, locally operated sexual assault hotline, as well as staffing medical advocates who work tirelessly to support victim survivors across Lancaster County if they choose to go to a hospital to receive care for an assault.

Thanks to a new partnership with Penn State Health, our Sexual Assault Prevention Center has a new and impactful tool in our toolbox to provide quality care and healing to victim survivors.


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YWCA Lancaster is excited to partner with Penn State Health on their new SAFE-T program, which will give victim survivors the ability to receive telehealth guidance from trained staff during their SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Exam). This new program will provide enhanced care to the victim survivors we serve, and increase our ability to provide care, comfort, and security to community members in need.

Through the use of state of the art camera imaging, healthcare professionals and our medical advocates will be able to interact with a telehealth professional during the exams to document important datapoints with high resolution photos, and receive guidance that will enhance the level of care provided.

As the rape crisis center for Lancaster County, YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center is committed to providing victim survivors of sexual assault with quality care, supportive services, and pathways to healing. This new service from Penn State Health can help provide important additional support to people who have experienced sexual assault, and tap into a regional network of experienced practitioners to make the journey towards healing, accountability, and justice more accessible than ever before.

Learn more about our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center

Cheryl Gahring Honored with Governor’s Award

YWCA Lancaster is proud to announce that Cheryl Gahring has been honored with a Governor’s Victim Service Pathfinder Award. Cheryl was a longtime advocate and Chief Impact Officer for YWCA Lancaster until her tragic passing in 2021.

The Governor’s Victim Service Pathfinder Award is the most prestigious award that Pennsylvania gives to a victim service professional or program. In recognition of her more than 14 years of service to YWCA Lancaster’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, Cheryl has been awarded the Individual Organizational Capacity Building Award posthumously.

Cheryl Gahring held many positions during her time at YWCA Lancaster, culminating in Chief Impact Officer. In this role she supported all departments within the organization and operated as an indirect team member of YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center (SAPCC). Cheryl was influential in securing a YWCA National Hallmark Program called TechGYRLS to the YWCA Lancaster to support young women and girls. The program was facilitated by Counselors and Educators within the Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center and empowered female-identifying children between the ages of 9 and 14 to pursue STEAM related careers. The award was accepted in her memory by her son, Derek Gahring.

“Cheryl was empathetic, generous, adaptable, dependable, humorous, and willing. There was no one who embodied the mission and spirit of this organization more than her,” said Stacie Blake, CEO of YWCA Lancaster, “While her absence will always be felt, we are proud to celebrate her legacy with this award, and honor her work as we continue to support victim survivors in Lancaster County.”

Cheryl and the other Pathfinder Award Recipients were honored by the Office of Victims Services on November 17th, 2022 at 2:00pm during a virtual awards ceremony. A full list of the award recipients can be found here: https://www.media.pa.gov/pages/PCCD-details.aspx?newsid=46

YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center has been Lancaster County’s rape crisis center for more than 32 years, and offers counseling services to victim survivors of sexual assault and their networks without charge. The Counseling Center utilizes special programs designed for children, adolescents, and adults to meet their diverse needs, including counseling, support groups, as well as medical advocacy.

Learn more about our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center

Announcing $200,000 County investment in YForward

We’re proud to announce that YWCA Lancaster has earned a new $200,000 investment in YForward, our radical reimagining of our historic Lime St. location from the Lancaster Housing and Redevelopment Authority’s Community Block Grant Program!

We are honored to be in partnership with Lancaster County government for their plans for the future: YForward will help will add sixteen residential units to the existing 38 units and add an additional, ADA-compliant, interior elevator to handle increased traffic and accommodate ambulance stretchers, and transition the Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center from the 3rd floor to the ground floor. 

A space built for community

With YForward, we will be able to enhance our facility reflect the needs of our community. With the support of the County as well as other community partners we’re working to recruit, we will renovate the Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center, completely transforming our space,  and growing where we are:  

We will have community space created for our survivor groups, such as our Trauma Process Yoga Group, Expressive Arts Groups, support groups for all ages, and processing groups after major events or related media reports. 

Discrete and private meeting spaces will provide a confidential area for team meetings, group supervisions, support groups, and educational workshops.  We will also provide a calm and trauma informed waiting area. 

In addition, we will provide a new, private entrance that allows clients to have direct access to services and can minimize discomfort or potential distress with having to enter via a public entrance. If the elevator is not working it will no longer negatively impact Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center clients who are unable to access the stairs.

Forward for a just future

While we are honored to partner with the County on this block grant, we continue to seek more partnerships with other organizations, businesses and community leaders to meet the full need of the project. With your support, we can maximize this unused space where the pool used to meet more urgent needs for our community, and to grow our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center. We are proud to continue the work YWCA Lancaster grow where we are, expand our vital services, and continue our work of supporting and advocating for victim survivors of sexual assault. Our mission is more important now than ever, and with your help, we can move forward together!

Learn more about YForward and join the movement to build for community.

New and Continued Investment in YWCA Lancaster

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.


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Trust in our community, trust from our community

With support from the Lancaster County government, as well as community partners both nonprofit and corporate, we’re proud to announce some recent new and continued investment in YWCA Lancaster:

Every contract with Lancaster County has been renewed for 2022-3, an investment totaling more than half a million dollars

YWCA Lancaster received funding from the Lancaster County Community Foundation to support the re-launch of the Black Artist Waystation, and the Touchstone Foundation for Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center curricula

  • 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!

We were honored to receive investments from corporate partners, such as the Hershey Company, Truist, Erie Insurance, the PPL Foundation, and more!

Until Our Mission is Met

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.

Join us!

Local Voices: Dobbs decision will harm sexual assault survivors

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 visit YWCALancaster.org to 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.