DeShannon Barnes-Bowens is the founder of ILERA and works as a psychotherapist, professional development trainer and spiritual counselor. Through ILERA, she implements workshops and programs focusing on: sexuality & spirituality, sexual abuse, vicarious trauma & wellness. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and a Master’s degree in Counseling from Pace University. DeShannon is also an initiated priestess in the Yoruba-Ifa spiritual tradition and an ordained Interfaith Minister through One Spirit Learning Alliance where she currently serves as Co-Director of One Spirit's Interfaith Seminary program.
Hush Hush: An African American Family Breaks Their Silence on Sexuality & Sexual Abuse was DeShannon’s first published book in 2007. Her work was revised for a second edition and inspired a full length play of the same title in 2015. In May 2018 her article, A Road Less Traveled, was published in the Journal of Inerreligious Studies.
DeShannon is a member of CONNECT Faith’s Ending Child Sexual Abuse Collaborative and coordinated their Safe Faith Community Project to help religious communities in New York City prevent sexual abuse. She was the first recipient of the American Association of Sexuality, Educators, Counselors & Therapists, Bill T. Jones Award and is an Emeritus scholar for the State of Formation.
As a frequent speaker on the topics of sexual abuse, sexuality & spirituality, DeShannon has given numerous talks at national conferences, social service agencies, educational institutions and religious organizations. Presentations of her work have taken place at Harvard University, American Academy of Religion, Union Theological Seminary, Washington University, Interfaith Center of New York, The Children's Aid Society, New York Theological Seminary, University of Connecticut, AASECT, Woodhull Alliance's Sexual Freedom Summit and the Values Caucus of the United Nations.