The Courage Conference exists to be a refuge for survivors, a place to educate and empower advocates, and a catalyst to spark the conditions where this movement for change can become a Justice Generation that resists abuse everywhere. Now in its fourth year, this annual gathering of abuse survivors, advocates, and those who love them is an event that is especially poised for this moment in history.
“Some of the most healing experiences for me have been when I have met fellow survivors. We all knew we had something in common, and we could bond over our shared experiences.”
— Ashley Easter
The Courage Conference promotes safety, including our ideology and worldview. We advocate both the theoretical and practical equality of men and women in the home, church, and society. Studies of abuse dynamics show the motivation for abuse is power and control. For this reason, we believe gender equality combats power differentiation. We do not align with any ideology that places women in a more vulnerable position and reinforces men to a unilateral position of power and control.
The Courage Conference values people of all faith traditions, racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders, abilities, and sexual orientations. We do so because abuse affects every part of society, and we strive to offer support to all people, no matter their position within the social strata. We believe no one should experience abuse and everyone deserves help and healing.
The Courage Conference strives to be a safe place for those healing from abuse and trauma. The Courage Conference reserves the right to reject or eject online or in-person attendees and revoke and refund the price of a ticket at any time in order to honor the emotional health of the survivors present. The Courage Conference is not responsible for any additional compensation above the price of the ticket. Safety is paramount.
The Courage Conference is not formally affiliated with any religious institution though many participants self-identify as Christian. We see ourselves as a service to the Church and to those who have been harmed particularly within religious environments. We are happy and willing to serve those with different religious affiliations or without religious affiliations. Abuse affects everyone.
We take trauma triggers seriously and work to create a sensitive environment but it is important to understand that each person’s trauma triggers are different and individual attendees are responsible for managing their own triggers in the best and safest way possible for them.
Event speakers are given sensitivity guidelines but their opinions expressed on stage remain their own and are ultimately not within the power of The Courage Conference to control. Topics related to abuse and religion will be addressed.
Reverend Lyvonne Proverbs
Advocate | Pastor | Speaker
Pastor Lyvonne Proverbs, a New York City native, is a body and sex-positive preacher, transformational speaker, poet, educator, and creative social entrepreneur working to end #ChurchToo. Committed to eradicating childhood sexual abuse in and beyond Black religious spaces, Lyvonne is the founder of Beautiful Scars, an online storytelling agency focused on trauma, healing, and resiliency. An Emmy-award-winning media producer, Lyvonne has been featured in ESSENCE and Cosmopolitan and recently Sojourners named her one of “11 Women Shaping the Church.” She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a non-profit sisterhood of predominantly Black, college educated women providing assistance and support around the world.
Rachel Grant, MA
Advocate | Author | Certified Coach
Rachel Grant is a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach with an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. She is also the author of Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse. Based on her training, study of neuroscience, and lessons learned from her own journey, Rachel works with survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are tired of feeling broken, unfixable, and burdened by the past. Rachel designed a program to change the way we think about and heal from abuse and empowers survivors to relinquish of the pain of abuse and move on with their lives.
Thomas Edward, CPC, ELI-MP
Advocate | Certified Coach
Thomas Edward is the founder of MpowerSurvivors.com, a leadership development coaching organization tasked to help educate, coach, and equip men dealing with the adverse childhood experiences (ACE) of sexual abuse and trauma. A survivor himself, Thomas creates safe haven weekend workshops and online coaching programs where men can activate healing by resolving imprints of sexual trauma and led empowered lives. Thomas has been working with male survivors since 2001 as a certified professional coach, incorporating neuroscience and healing strategies during his workshops. Thomas also consults and trains for CPS in Sacramento, California.
JIMMY HINTON, MDIV
Advocate | Speaker
Jimmy Hinton Jimmy Hinton, MDiv grew up in Shanksville, PA, just one mile from where United 93 crashed on September 11, 2001.
In 2011, Jimmy’s sister confided in him that she had been sexually abused when she was a young child by their father, a former minister of 27 years. Jimmy reported his father to authorities which resulted in his confession of 23 victims and a conviction of 30-60 years in Pennsylvania state corrections facility.
Jimmy researches deception techniques of child molesters and specializes in abuse in plain sight. Jimmy is a certification specialist with G.R.A.C.E (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment).
MIKE SLOAN, MDIV
GRACE Director of Safeguarding Certification Program
Mike Sloan is the Director of Safeguarding Certification at GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). For the last nine years, Mike has trained churches, schools, and other Christian ministries across the United States and abroad in child abuse prevention and response best practices. Mike was instrumental in developing GRACE’s Safeguarding Certification initiative and GRACE’s Seminary Curriculum with GRACE board member Victor Vieth, the first three-credit hour seminary course on child maltreatment, which was piloted at Biblical Seminary in 2017. In the past, Mike served as a local pastor in Atlanta, Georgia, and Columbus, Ohio.
Advocate | Writer | Speaker | Founder of The Courage Conference
Ashley Easter is a Christian feminist, writer, speaker, life coach, television producer, life coach and abuse-victim advocate who educates churches and secular communities on abuse, introducing them to safe practices and healing resources. She is also the founder of The Courage Conference, a judgement-free place for survivors of abuse—and those who love them—to gather and hear inspiring stories from other survivors about moving forward in boldness and healing. She is the author of The Courage Coach: A Practical, Friendly Guide on How to Heal From Abuse.
Author | Speaker | Survivor | Advocate
Katherine Barner is an advocate committed to helping female survivors heal from the trauma of sexual abuse. Through her weekly podcast, Sister Survivors, she works to inspire and empower survivors while sharing the message that “you are not alone.” Through her counseling firm and extensive background in trauma work, Katherine equips survivors and those who love them with the tools necessary to live with clarity, courage, and confidence.
Author | Activist
Chris Stroop is a prominent voice in the Exvangelical community dedicated to exposing the abuses that are widespread within Christianity’s evangelical and fundamentalist subcultures and exploring how toxic beliefs foster abuse. Stroop is the creator of viral Twitter hashtags including #ExposeChristianSchools and #EmptyThePewscovers which have enabled thousands of people to share their experiences of abuse within Christianity. Chris further analyzes and provides commentary for these and related issues in outlets such as Religion Dispatches, Foreign Policy, Dame Magazine, and Stroop’s blog, Not Your Mission Field, which can be found at cstroop.com, along with resources for survivors of toxic Christianity.
Stroop emphasizes moral autonomy and works to build bridges between those who leave toxic Christianity for healthy religion and those who leave for no religion.
Author | Advocate
Sherry Johnson is the author of Forgiving the Unforgivable: Purple in a Darker Color, a first-hand experience of the repercussions of child sexual abuse. When she became pregnant at age ten by a nineteen-year-old church deacon, she was forced to marry her rapist at age eleven.
By 2012, Sherry told her story and motivated Florida lawmakers to close the legal loophole that allowed her marriage. Marriages like hers which were recognized by the law were banned by 2018, when lawmakers approved SB 140 to ban marriage in Florida to any child under the age of seventeen.
Founder & Director of Together We Heal
David Pittman founded Together We Heal in 2011 to provide fellow survivors and their families guidance and help through the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. TWH educates through public speaking to raise awareness and expose sexual predators and their methods. TWH assists both men and women in their efforts to heal, grow and thrive.
In 2015, David was asked to become a part of the Child Safeguarding Initiative team with GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to empower Christian communities through education and training to recognize, prevent, and respond to child abuse.
Through representing Together We Heal and GRACE, David serves as a public speaker and instructor, teaching churches, schools, and families how to talk with their kids about sexual abuse, how to better identify predatory behavior, and how to properly respond to those harmed.
MICHAEL BREEN, JD, MA
Attorney | Advocate
Michael Breen has over thirty-five years of experience in the courtroom as an attorney and advocate. Based in Bowling Green, Kentucky, his office handles cases nationwide, seeking justice for victims. Besides managing a lively litigation practice, Michael has authored numerous books and articles on trial practice and instructed dozens of classes on litigation techniques for judges, lawyers, and insurance company representatives. In 2014, Michael received his Master of Arts in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary.
Survivor | Advocate
Ryan Stollar is an advocate for children and abuse survivors and a child liberation theologian. He is a Certification Specialist for GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) and a Board Member for the Child-Friendly Faith Project. Ryan has a Master in Health Science in Child Protection from Nova Southeastern University and a Master of Arts in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College. Ryan has served on the boards of organizations and managed numerous social media campaigns for homeschool advocacy organizations, including the Coalition for Responsible Home Education and Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out. Ryan was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school.
Author | Survivor | Advocate
Nanette Kirsch is an author, blogger, small-business marketer, wife, mother of four, follower of Jesus and survivor of sexual abuse by a high school teacher. Frequently contributing her voice to the many others who are working to raise awareness of sexual abuse, Nanette advocates for survivors by helping them share their stories, as she did in her 2017 award-winning book Denial: Abuse, Addiction and a Life Derailed, which is based on a true story. Nanette is a lover of truth who strives daily to both seek it and speak it.