Plenary Speakers

Vincent Felitti - The Repressed Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences in Adult Well-Being, Disease, and Social Function

A renowned physician and researcher, Dr. Vincent J. Felitti is one of the world’s foremost experts on childhood trauma. Leading the charge in research into how adverse childhood experiences affect adults, he is co-principal investigator of the internationally recognized Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, a long-term, in-depth, analysis of over 17,000 adults. Defying conventional belief, this study famously revealed a powerful relationship between our emotional experiences as children and our physical and mental health as adults. In fact, the ACE study shows that humans convert childhood traumatic emotional experiences into organic disease later in life. Revolutionary at its inception, Felitti’s groundbreaking research remains extremely relevant to today’s healthcare models.

Joan Meier - Bias in the Family Courts?  Findings from the First National Quantitative Study of Custody Cases Involving Abuse and Alienation

Joan Meier is a Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the National Family Violence Law Center at George Washington University Law School.  At GW Law, Joan founded and taught three pioneering and nationally recognized interdisciplinary domestic violence clinical programs. She has published widely on

domestic violence, custody, and various Supreme Court decisions.   Her major study of Child Custody Outcomes in Cases Involving Parental Alienation and Abuse Allegations, funded by the National Institute of Justice, was just completed.  The data presented at this meeting is from this study. 

In 2003, Joan founded the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP); she stepped down in August 2019.  While at DV LEAP Joan filed fourteen briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and represented abuse survivors in state court appeals all over the country and in the District of Columbia.  DV LEAP and Joan have received several awards, including among others, the American Bar Association’s first ever “Sharon Corbitt Award for exceptional service and leadership in improving the legal response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and/or stalking.”


Joan regularly provides trainings for judges, psychologists, lawyers, domestic violence coalitions, and others. 


She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1980, cum laude from the University of Chicago Law School in 1983, and clerked on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

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