IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Lisa White makes sure sexual assault victims can get the help they need

Lisa White tries to enjoy "the sweet moments in life." (Dan Marschka/Staff)

Lisa R. White wonders, sometimes, what is happening in this world.

As the director of counseling and empowerment services at Lancaster YWCA, White oversees the Sexual Assault Prevention & Counseling Center. The five counselors at the center counseled 716 victims of sexual abuse and assault, and their family members, in the year that ended June 30.

A third of those who went through counseling were children; a third were adolescents, and a third were adults. Most were females, but "we see a lot of boys," too, White said, noting that the center saw a "huge surge" in boys needing counseling in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case.

"We're so glad that we're here. We're so glad we're able to provide free, professional counseling," White said.

But, she added, "it's very easy to become sad" about the magnitude of the need for such counseling.

So great is that need that the counseling center has a lengthy waiting list for children.

Because the counseling center is so busy, White said, she now finds herself "being more of a director." She'd prefer to see clients, but "I feel like right now I need to be an administrator."

The work is difficult, and often heartrending.

"I must surround myself with people who love me, who will keep me safe," White said, noting that she has an "awesome group of friends" and a niece she adores.

"We must find time to enjoy the sweet moments in life ... beautiful days and Carmen & David's ice cream, and laughing with people who bring out the best in you.

"This counseling center has a wicked sense of humor - and we have to. Otherwise, we'd spend most of the day questioning humanity."

Hometown: Dowagiac, Mich.

Family: Mom and brother, Jamie (married to Jayne, the sweetest niece ever, Myah).

Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology and theater (a double major) from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. Master's degree in counseling from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

Previous job: Consultant for Philhaven, working in School District of Lancaster at Reynolds Middle School.

Why I came to the YWCA: I wanted to be a part of the mission: to eliminate racism; empower women; and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

What I find most challenging about my work: A shrinking budget from various entities and not having enough money to do the work that we need to do in the field of sexual violence.

What I find most satisfying: Being able to provide a safe space for people to tell their stories and to heal, and being a part of such a dedicated team of professionals who want to help others.

What I wish people understood about the issue of sexual violence: Sexual violence is alive and well in Lancaster County. It is an equal-opportunity crime that crosses boundaries of ethnicity, class, socioeconomic status, gender, etc.

One myth we're trying to dispel: "Sexual violence doesn't happen in my neighborhood." Chances are it already has.

What I am hopeful about: One day, the people who make laws and who have power in this country will realize how prevalent sexual violence is and how many people it affects each year. Once they realize that, they will begin to ensure the safety and well-being of all people who live in these United States.

How people could get involved: Contact their local rape crisis center (at YWCA Lancaster) and take the 40-hour training for hot-line advocates. It gives a great overview of sexual violence and informs you of other organizations that can assist victim survivors of sexual violence.

A website I frequent: www.pcar.org (the website of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape).

My greatest wish: That my niece will be able to live in a world where she won't have a 25 percent chance of being sexually assaulted by her 18th birthday.

Books I'd recommend: For a good read, "Cutting for Stone," by Abraham Verghese. More academic: "Trauma Counseling: Theories and Interventions," by Lisa Lopez Levers.

How I relax: Traveling and reading, live theater and baseball games.

The last movie I saw: I rewatched "Pride & Prejudice," starring Keira Knightley.

Favorite food indulgence: Anything from Carmen & David's Creamery.

Favorite place in the world: Ivory Coast, West Africa.

How I get by: With a little help from my friends. They mean the world to me.

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