In the fall of 1993 I found myself in the most unlikely of situations – at the epicentre of a war of ethnic cleansing. The place was Sarajevo, Bosnia, a previously ethnically mixed, culturally diverse city nestled in the hills of the former Yugoslavia. At that time under siege for almost 2 years, some residents were near starvation. Snipers in the nearby hills relentlessly targeted them as they darted furtively through the city to find food, water, firewood, and generally do their best to survive.
I arrived on a United Nations flight to provide training to the professional health care community in rape and trauma treatment. At the moment of beginning the training, standing in front of the group of professionals assembled, it was clear to me that, if not for my own abduction and sexual assault 30 years earlier, I would not be standing in front of them in this besieged city, in a country at war.
In all of my work with rape and trauma victims, starting from the time I received my Social Work Master’s Degree in 1969, the experience of my own assault at 19 is never far from each interaction I am blessed to have every day.
I am a Registered Social Worker, with a Master’s Degree in Social Work, and have been a trainer, mentor and psychotherapist for over 40 years. A major area of specialization has been in the area of trauma treatment, in North America and Internationally. I offer a particular expertise in training and supporting humanitarian aid workers serving beneficiaries living in highly traumatic situations – conflict/war survivors, victims of genocide, and refugees.
Since 1970 I have been employed in a variety of agencies, including Family Services, Community Mental Health Centres, and University Counselling Centres. In my private practice I have focused on work with women survivors of trauma – primarily childhood and adult sexual assault. I have always been involved in couple’s counselling and work with individuals who want to free themselves and transform their lives.
During the years 1993 – 2005, I was employed in the former Yugoslavia, both during and after the war in that region. My work was with humanitarian relief agencies, establishing programs for war-affected populations, as well as training health providers to serve these populations. In 2007 I was employed in Afghanistan as a Psychosocial Project Manager for a women’s organization, mentoring and training Afghan women to work with victims of violence. In 2008 I provided vicarious trauma treatment for the staff of a humanitarian agency in Darfur, Sudan.
I am currently a psychotherapist and trauma consultant based in Vancouver, Canada.