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Victories in our movement for a just future

Our movement for a just future where we eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all takes many forms: it could be participating in a rally for a cause you believe in, making a public comment at a local school board meeting, or even sharing ideas and insights with your networks to challenge them with new ideas.

And while every action at any level is vital for our mission, we are also heartened by movement at the policy level to help members of our community in need.

In partnership with the Pennsylvania Coalition to Advance Respect (PCAR), YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center is working to support victim survivors and anyone impacted by sexual abuse, harassment, and assault, including prioritizing the passage of legislation that can enhance protections and care.

In the past year alone, we’re proud to uplift the passage of these important pieces of legislation that will help do just that:

2023 Legislative Victories

No Pelvic Exam without Consent a. Act 31 of 2023: Patient consent is now required for the performance of pelvic, rectal, and prostate examinations while a patient is under anesthesia for unrelated procedures. (HB 507 – Fiedler (D)

Removing Derogatory Terms from the School Code of 1949 a. Act 33 of 2023: Removes outdated language to create a more inclusive overview of physical and mental impairments. (HB 301 – Harkins (D))

Dignity for Incarcerated Women a. Act 47 of 2023: Requires reporting when a correctional facility places a pregnant, labor, or postpartum individual in restraints or restrictive housing. (HB 900 – Cephas (D)

Expanding Access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners a. Act 59 of 2023: Creates a list, available via the Internet, of available hospitals with SANE nurse staff. Requires hospitals to report any changes to their SANE nurse capabilities. (SB 414 – Vogel (R))

Strengthening Pennsylvania’s Guardianship Laws a. Act 61 of 2023: Creates a legal right to counsel for a possibly incapacitated person going through the guardian legal process. Further, the act imposes requirements for a person who is seeking guardianship of three or more people. (SB 506 – Baker (R)

Ensuring Victims of Human Trafficking have Access to Services a. Act 39 of 2023: Provides further definitions for the offense of trafficking in individuals and for the offense of patronizing a victim of sexual servitude. (SB 44 – Dush (R)

Local Proclamations

Over the past month, we have been honored to join with local governments across our County to declare April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month!

Read the proclamation from Lancaster City Council

Only the beginning

Our movement continues with important pieces of legislation at both local and national levels, and we need your support to help make sure they are passed.

Just last month, Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced HB1769 to limit the access to eviction records for prospective renters. And in the US House of Representatives, legislation has been introduced by representative Jahana Hayes to declare racism as a public health crisis.

Whatever your level of involvement, we need your ideas, your insights, and your passion to help continue our victories–big and small–and grow our movement. We are proud to be in community with you and will continue to unite with you until our mission is met!

Read more of YWCA Lancaster’s Policy Positions

Join with your community on April 27

All who enter are equal (and believed)

Everyone has the right to enjoy themselves without fear when they are out with friends, coworkers, or alone on the town. That’s why our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center is committed to partnering with as many local businesses as possible to make sure Lancaster’s go-to spots for night life is safe, affirming, and proactive in ensuring customer’s safety.

Partnering with Tellus360, members of our SAPCC team conducted a training with bar staff to empower them to be proactive bystanders advocating for respect and safety for all who visit the establishment.

The facts

Alcohol is often a factor in sexual assault and violence, with studies estimating that between 50% and 77% of sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption, by either the victim, the offender, and many times both. What’s more, 70% of women and 80% of men had been drinking when sexual assault occurred.

And because of alcohol impairs judgement, in Pennsylvania no adult can legally consent if they are incapacitated by alcohol.

YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center team was thrilled to partner with Tellus360 to ensure that wherever alcohol is served, customers can enjoy it safely, responsibly, and with a staff who understands the signs of a dangerous situation and can intervene.

Training to empower

In the 2 hour training, SAPCC staff covered topics such as:

  • consent
  • bystander intervention practices
  • rape culture
  • alcohol and the role alcohol plays in sexual assault perpetration
  • how to protect drinks from being tampered with
  • identifying potential aggressors
  • victim blaming and how to avoid it

All who enter are equal (and believed)

Bill Speakman, music and events manager for Tellus360 said “Tellus360 was pleased to participate in the YWCA’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month training as we feel it is our responsibility to equip our staff with the knowledge and tools to provide a safer environment for our customers and employees.

Jo and Kimberly clearly presented the information with great sensitivity. Their dedication to helping us understand the material in a meaningful way is apparent.  We’re grateful for their efforts and hope to continue to work together”.


Building our movement

While Sexual Assault Awareness Month is only one month, YWCA Lancaster and our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center is dedicated to supporting victim survivors and ending sexual violence in Lancaster County all 12 months of the year.

As the rape crisis center for Lancaster County, we operate our 24-hour sexual assault hotline available at 717.392.7273, provide medical and legal advocacy for victim survivors, and offer no cost counseling and therapy for anyone impacted by sexual abuse, harassment and assault (and we have openings!).

We are committed to working with any business who wants to join our movement empower more proactive bystanders and promote safety for all in Lancaster County.

If you would like to book us for a training for your staff or workplace, contact us today!

Empowering Growth: Childhood Trauma Care Conference

YWCA Lancaster’s Childhood Trauma Care Conference hosted by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center brought together over 150 professionals, advocates, and community members to explore innovative approaches and strategies for supporting individuals impacted by childhood trauma.

Our keynote speaker was the Commonwealth Victim Advocate of Pennsylvania, Suzanne Estrella from the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate. In her opening session she shared information about growth and fostering a safe supportive space for children. If you yourself have not experienced childhood trauma, she said “then it can be difficult to really wrap your head around what that feels like to that child.”

Breakout sessions included topics such as: supporting LGBTQ+ youth, self-care for individuals in social service professions, learning the basics of ACEs, commercial exploitation of youth, and more. Professionals, advocates, and community members had the opportunity to hear from experts in their fields and really dive in to key topics around childhood trauma. While professionals and other attendees may be familiar with some of the topics presented, many were there to build a foundational understanding of childhood trauma. YWCA Lancaster CEO Stacie Blake shared that

“I think all of us are growing in our knowledge of trauma and the impacts of trauma, particularly on children.”

Understanding Childhood Trauma

Sessions took an insightful exploration of the various forms of childhood trauma and their long-term effects on mental health and well-being. Presenters delved into the latest research, shedding light on the importance of early intervention and creating trauma-informed spaces.

Trauma-Informed Practices

Speakers emphasized the need for trauma-informed practices in various settings, from schools and healthcare to community organizations. Workshops and discussions provided practical strategies for implementing these approaches, ensuring that professionals and advocates can create safe and supportive environments for children and adults alike.

Intersectionality and Trauma

A crucial aspect was addressing trauma through an intersectional lens. Presenters explored how factors such as race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status intersect with trauma, acknowledging the unique challenges faced by individuals with multiple marginalized identities.

Building Resilience

A central focus of the conference was resilience-building strategies that promote healing and empowerment among trauma survivors. Speakers shared evidence-based approaches such as trauma-informed therapy, and mindfulness techniques emphasizing the importance of fostering strengths and protective factors in individuals’ journeys toward recovery.

Community Collaboration

Collaboration was a recurring theme throughout the conference, highlighting the essential role of community partnerships in addressing childhood trauma. A panel discussion featuring law enforcement officials and social service providers shed light on the importance of a collective commitment to creating trauma-responsive systems of support. YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center Director, Mandy Billman, stated that

“YWCA Lancaster is proud to partner and engage with local experts in their fields. The collaborations are crucial in supporting children through their trauma and keeping kids in Lancaster County safe.”

YWCA Lancaster’s Childhood Trauma Care Conference provided a safe space for dialogue, collaboration, and action in advancing trauma-informed care practices. By empowering individuals, fostering resilience, and promoting community collaboration, attendees left inspired and equipped to make meaningful contributions to the well-being of trauma survivors and their communities.

As we continue on this journey, let us remain committed to fostering a culture of empathy, empowerment, and growth in our collective efforts to address childhood trauma and promote healing for all.

Keep the movement growing

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month! We have a lots of programming planned all month long to raise awareness, build community, and uplift survivors. Learn more below!

See photos from the event

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Announcing the Empowering Growth Conference!

YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center is proud to present the Empowering Growth: Childhood Trauma Care Conference on February 15, 2024, at the Downtown Lancaster Marriott! With support from Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s Community Violence Prevention/Reduction Initiative, YWCA Lancaster aims to strengthen the existing community of care in Lancaster County by presenting an opportunity for quality trauma-informed support services. The conference is designed for educators, therapists, counselors, case managers, advocates, and anyone who supports children and youth in a professional capacity.

As Lancaster County’s rape crisis center for more than three decades, YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center will offer the Empowering Growth Conference featuring a diverse and accomplished slate of presenters for the one-day conference, as well as a keynote session from Suzanne Estrella, the Commonwealth Victim Advocate from the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate. Local experts Representatives from Lancaster County’s Multidisciplinary Team who support youth during and after child abuse investigations will also participate in a panel discussion on mandated reporting.

Other topics for the Empowering Growth Conference will include:

  • The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)
  • Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth mental health
  • Best practices for engaging youth with virtual therapy
  • Wellness for the helping professional
  • Play therapy

And more!

Up to five Continuing Education Units (CEUs) will be available at the Empowering Growth Conference through Millersville University for professionals licensed through the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors.


Tickets for the Empowering Youth Childhood Trauma Conference on February 15 are $50, with discounts for multiple tickets. CEU credits are an additional $25 per ticket and can be reserved at EmpoweringGrowthConference.com!

Empowering Growth:
Childhood Trauma Care Conference

February 15, 2024

8am – 5pm

Lancaster Downtown Marriott

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