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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.

Local Voices: Ending Abortion Will Harm Our Community

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.