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Speakers

More speakers will be announced in the months to come and speakers, as well as the schedule, are subject to change. In the meantime, if you would like to nominate a speaker with authority on the topic of religious trauma, get in touch with us and let us know! Click here

Join us online to hear speakers like:

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Dr. Danielle Kramer

Bio: Dr. Danielle Kramer (she/they) is a certified sex therapist and board-certified clinical sexologist who splits their time between clinical practice, research, consulting. In clinical practice Dr. Kramer specializes in the care of LGBTQ+ folks and women’s/AFAB (assigned female at birth) folks. Dr. Kramer was raised in purity culture and devotes a significant amount of their practice to working with religious and sexual trauma, as well as being the only certified sex therapist in the Florida Panhandle providing gender affirming care. In research Dr. Kramer focuses on misogyny in the US, abortion care and access, and AFAB sexual health. Dr. Kramer also consults on the local, state, and federal level on the politics and policy of abortion care and access. Dr. Kramer is a member of American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (ASSECT); The American Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (TASHRA); and the Sexual Health Alliance.

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Dr. Josie McSkimming

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Jennifer French

A survivor herself, Jennifer French is a cult and religious recovery counselor. She has a Master’s in the Psychology of Coercive Control and is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. Jennifer is also certified in Gillie Jenkinson’s specialized religious recovery approach, grounded in survivor research and offered in both individual and group settings. Jennifer hosts the Project Hope Podcast for families and friends with loved ones in a group of high control / high demand. She is a member of the ICSA (International Cultic Studies Awareness) Research Committee and has conducted research on those who self-identify as having experienced coercive control and received Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy as a result. She is a level 2 trained IFS counselor and melds these two areas of interest as a Research Associate at Salford University. Jennifer works both across the US and Internationally and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and extended family. Connect at Jennifer-French.com or IG @jennifer.french.jfh.

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Dr. Darrel Ray

Dr. Ray is the founder and President of the Board of Directors of Recovering from Religion. He has been a psychologist for over thirty years and is the author of four books: two on organizational teamwork as well as "The God Virus-How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture" and "Sex and God-How Religion Distorts Sexuality".

Dr. Ray has been a student of religion most of his life and holds a Masters Degree in religion as well as a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology/Anthropology with a Doctorate in Psychology.

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Gillie Jenkinson, PhD

Gillie Jenkinson, PhD, is an accredited psychotherapist, international speaker and Director of Hope Valley Counselling. For over 25 years she has specialized, as a therapist and researcher, in the challenges faced by those who have experienced coercive, cultic, and spiritual abuse. She created ‘Post-Cult Counselling’ for those who experience religious trauma in a cultic religion and trains therapists in its use. She is a former member of a Bible-based cultic group. Gillie’s book ‘Walking Free from the Trauma of Coercive, Cultic and Spiritual Abuse: A Workbook for Recovery and Growth’ will be published by Routledge in May 2023.

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Dr. Ling Lam

Ling Lam, Ph.D. is a Lecturer in the Counseling Psychology Department where he teaches courses on Complex Trauma, Crisis Intervention, LGBT Counseling, Family Therapy, Couple Therapy and Multicultural Psychotherapy. 

 

Ling is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a part-time practice in Palo Alto and San Francisco. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Santa Clara University, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering and a B.S. (with distinction) in Electrical Engineering, both from Stanford University. 

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Willie Cartwright, EMBA

WILLIE CARTWRIGHT is a speaker, entrepreneur, author, and advocate who holds a B.S Degree in Finance and an Executive MBA.Though he and his wife now own several successful businesses, Willie and his sister were raised by a single mother in the public housing neighbourhoods of Birmingham, Alabama.

 

As a child, he was relentlessly bullied due to his thick glasses and stutter. His stepfather was so verbally abusive that Willie threatened to kill him. Raised in a strict Christian household deep in the Bible belt, Willie walked away from organized religion and Christianity in 2015.

 

After doing exhaustive research on the topic, he wrote his most recent book: From Saved to Sane: My journey away from Christianity and how it has adversely affected the African American Community.

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Mahrs Schoppman, MA, LMFT

Mahrs Schoppman is a queer & trans somatic psychotherapist with a private practice based out of his home office in the redwood trees of Occidental, California, the traditional territory of the Graton Rancheria and Coastal Mi-wok people.  Mahrs specializes in working with the queer community and with those who live with the embodied traumatic impacts of growing up in an oppressive religious environment.  He is passionate about walking with people on their journeys of reclaiming embodied knowing, sensation, emotional range, and vitality as a means of recovering from the learned dissociation that comes with restrictive religion.  Mahrs facilitates therapy groups for queer survivors of religious trauma and is in the midst of writing a book about his experiences and ideas around religious trauma.  

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Christy Powell, LPC

Christy is a Texas based Licensed Professional Counselor and gender and sexuality therapist who uses mindful self-compassion to engineer emotional chemistry, relational bonds and sexual alchemy through kink, poly and queer affirming therapies for religious shame and trauma. He hosts and produces the Atheist Experience Network's Secular Sexuality and is a former member of the Atheist Community of Austin's Board of Directors, he practices under the name Valence Counseling in Austin, TX. 

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Mary Byler

Mary Byler is the Manager and Founder of The Misfit Amish, an organization dedicated to providing secular support and resources to Amish and ex-Amish survivors. As an educator and advocate for Amish children, she collaborates with other organizations and agencies to provide best practice-based resources for Amish/Plain communities and survivors. A medical coder by profession, Byler also holds a Master certificate in life coaching, multiple certifications in trauma awareness, and specializes in working with survivors from cults and conservative sectarian religious groups. She is certified in social and behavioral research by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative and is a researcher and cultural advisor for the Lock Haven University study on child sexual abuse in conservative Anabaptist communities. Byler was a co-creator of a recent exhibit in Lancaster County on Amish/Plain clothing and sexual assault. She produces audio and video recordings of Amish/Plain survivor stories, with a focus on LGBTQ survivor stories.

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Erica Smith

Erica Smith is an experienced, award-winning and nationally recognized sexuality educator who provides public and private sexuality education, consulting, training, and speaking. She is frequently sought out as an expert on various sexuality topics by major media platforms and publications.

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Angel De Santis

Angel is a Mental health advocate, cult survivor, storyteller and creator of The Process by Angel, which uses guided self inquiry to stimulate human development. 

 

She spent her formative years in the doomsday cult, Children of God. After leaving in 2008 and realizing both her internal and external worlds were built incorrectly she began to go to thera[y and begin a practice of self inquiry. She now teaches others how to source their own strength and wisdom. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles as a yoga teacher and wellness consultant.

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Daniella Mestyanek Young

DANIELLA MESTYANEK YOUNG is an American author and TEDx speaker who was raised in the religious cult, Children of God. She later served as an intelligence officer for the US Army for six and a half years, making the rank of Captain, and became one of the first women in US Army history to conduct deliberate ground combat operations when she volunteered to serve on a Female Engagement Team, and received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. Daniella lives with her husband and daughter in Maryland, and holds a Master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the Harvard Extension School. Daniella is an organizational
development speaker with the Macmillan Speaker’s Bureau.


In the vein of Educated and The Glass Castle, Daniella Mestyanek Young's Uncultured is more than a memoir about an exceptional upbringing, but about a woman who, no matter the lack of tools given to her, is determined to overcome. Uncultured is "a propulsive memoir delivered in the honest tones of a woman who didn't always think she'd live to tell her story,” (NYT) it’s a book which explores the dangers unleashed when harmful group mentality goes unrecognized, demonstrates the “dangers of blindly following leaders of any stripe” (Kirkus Review) and is emblematic of the many ways women have to contort themselves to survive.

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Sara Tasneem

Sara Tasneem is a survivor of forced child marriage who advocates publicly to end child marriage in the United States because of the extreme and innumerable harms that it exposes minors to. Sara works alongside non-profit organizations and other survivor advocates to raise awareness and to lobby and testify for legislation that seeks to end child and forced marriage.

 

Sara’s story has been featured in a documentary, Knots: A Forced Marriage Story  and has been shared across national and international multi-media outlets, such as the Washington Post, Independent, France 24, UNLV Law Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Sara speaks publicly to educate the public about the harms of child marriage. Sara volunteers as a peer mentor to girls and women who have experienced child marriage and forced marriage. She sits on multiple coalitions including, the California Coalition to End Child Marriage, the National Coalition to End Child Marriage.

 

Sara has a master’s degree in Public Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Golden Gate University and currently works as a Finance Analyst in a County Government role. 

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Fraidy Reiss

Fraidy Reiss is a survivor turned activist. She was 19 when she was forced to marry a stranger
who turned out to be violent – and subjected to a virginity examination before the wedding. She
lost all sexual and reproductive rights within her abusive marriage, forced to have unprotected
marital sex and forced to have two children without her consent. When she finally managed to
escape her abusive forced marriage, her family shunned her.

 

Fraidy rebuilt her life and founded Unchained At Last, the only organization dedicated to ending
forced and child marriage in the United States through direct services and advocacy.

 

Fraidy’s research and writing on forced and child marriage have been published extensively,
including in the New York Times, Washington Post and Journal of Adolescent Health and by
Oxford Press, making her one of the foremost experts on these abuses in the U.S. She has
been featured in books (including as one of the titular women in Hillary and Chelsea
Clinton’s The Book of Gutsy Women), films (including the award-winning documentary Knots: A
Forced Marriage Story) and countless television, radio and print news stories.

 

Through Unchained, Fraidy has helped hundreds of survivors escape forced marriages, and she
now leads a growing national movement to end child marriage in every U.S. state and at the
federal level. Legislation she helped to write and promote has been passed into law in multiple
U.S. states.

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Carol Merchasin

Carol Merchasin is an international lawyer representing victims of sexual violence, slavery, and human trafficking in spiritual communities and cult organizations. In addition to heading up a practice covering sexual misconduct in religious, faith-based, and spiritual communities at the McAllister Olivarius law firm, Carol is also involved in developing new legal techniques to hold cults and spiritual communities to account.

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Claire Alison Hams

Claire Alison Hams is based in the UK. She is a psychodynamic and relational counsellor with a first degree in Counselling with the University of Greenwich and an advanced diploma in psychodynamic counselling. She is currently doing doctoral research with the University of Chester exploring second and multi-generation ex-Jehovah's Witness recovery.

Claire has lived experience of being born in and growing up as a Jehovah's Witness.  She left as an adult and recognises the unique form of grief that comes with the process of leaving and restarting a life outside religion. She now works with former members and survivors of cultic groups and relationships including spiritual abuse, religious trauma, various types of undue influence, coercive control and partner abuse. 

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