Author Laura van Dernoot Lipsky has worked directly with trauma survivors for over two decades. At age 18, she regularly spent nights volunteering in a homeless shelter. From there, she went on to work with survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, acute trauma, and natural disasters. Simultaneously, she has been active in community organizing and movements for social and environmental justice and has taught on issues surrounding systematic oppression and liberation theory.
Like so many of her colleagues, Laura initially engaged in her work with great passion and commitment, and with a sense that it was a privilege to serve others. But over time, the worked changed her, until she was no longer the person she had once been. She felt a rising despair about the brutality of the world and anger at those who had helped to create the conditions of trauma and suffering of humans, animals, and our planet. About 10 years ago, she finally faced an uncomfortable reality: The work she cared so much about was taking a toll on her. Her work had compromised her ability to be present in her life, enjoy her relationships, and even be an effective social worker and educator.
Feeling that she could no longer work with integrity, she began the second stage of her involvement with trauma. In 2000, she quit her job as an emergency room social worker at Harborview Hospital in Seattle, Washington, and began an urgent quest for wisdom that would allow her to preserve her trust in life and its beauty even when doing work that guaranteed exposure to endless waves of pain. Her explorations took her from Buddhist monks and nuns to qigong healers to Native American medicine men and women to the latest scientific research on the effects of prolonged exposure to others’ trauma. Laura’s hunger to embrace both the joy and the sorrow of our life experiences is at the root of her concept of trauma stewardship.
Laura offered her first version of a workshop on trauma stewardship to a group of public health workers in 1999. Since then, she has trained a wide variety of people, including zookeepers and reconstruction workers in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, community organizers and health care providers in Japan, U.S. Air Force pilots, Canadian firefighters, public school teachers, and private practice doctors. She has worked locally, nationally, and internationally.
Recently, Laura turned her attention to the effects of trauma exposure on those doing frontline work in environmental and conservation movements throughout the world. She was among the first to talk publicly about the profound price that the witnessing of mass extinctions and other potentially irreversible ecological losses caused by global warming and other forms of human encroachment is exacting from the organizations and individuals who are attempting to save our planet.
In addition to traveling near and far as part of her efforts to support others in practicing trauma stewardship, Laura continues to consult with organizations and institutions while also maintaining a counseling practice. She volunteers in the public schools and is the founder and director of Prescolar Alice Francis, a Spanish-language preschool that is guided by a curriculum in social and environmental justice. Conducted entirely in Spanish, it is the only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Laura lives in Seattle, Washington, holds a master of social work degree, is an associate producer of the award-winning film A Lot Like You, and was given a Yo! Mama award in recognition of her work as a community-activist mother.
Coauthor Connie Burk started her work in the anti-violence movement 25 years ago in Lawrence, Kansas. As a student activist and then a domestic violence shelter advocate, she began to make sense of her own experience with family violence and to build a framework for engaging people to make change. As her work progressed, she cofounded the first regional domestic violence survivor services for lesbian, bisexual, trans, and gay people in Kansas as a project of Women’s Transitional Care Services.
Since 1997, she has directed The Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse in Seattle, WA. With her leadership, The Northwest Network has developed a nationally acclaimed assessment tool, cutting-edge analysis regarding survivors’ use of violence, and innovative strategies for working with survivors’ friends and families. Over the years, colleagues and allies from across the Northwest region and the country have embraced Connie’s reframe of the work: not just to end domestic & sexual violence but to create the conditions necessary to support loving and equitable relationships.
Active in her community and synagogue, Connie is an executive producer of the award-winning documentary film A Lot Like You. Her sermon, Yom Kippur 5766, was published in the Journal of Religion and Abuse. She is a contributing author to the book The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Partner Violence in Activist Communities.
A sought-after speaker and commentator, Connie trains internationally on responding to secondary trauma in organizations, transforming abuse in LGBT communities, integrating community engagement throughout programs, sustaining a practice of ethical advocacy, and taking the crisis out of crisis-response organizations. She works with organizations to implement strategies from the trauma stewardship framework. Connie has focused particular attention on strengthening alliances among marginalized communities while centering liberation values in her work. She is a consultant for the Center on Trauma, Domestic Violence & Mental Health, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Institute, and many other national and regional organizations. Connie offers keynote talks, webinars, workshops, retreats, and consulting for organizations and coalitions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.