Brittany Catton Kirk Profile Pic.jpg

Founder Brittany Catton Kirk

Rape Survivor


"I just wish there was some place I could go."

Let's stop hiding. Hi, I am Brittany Catton Kirk, and I am a survivor from an attack in 2012. In the months and years after, I tried to manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a deep depression while keeping my career and relationship going. Some family wanted me to go to rehab, which is designed for those with substance abuse issues, not survivors of rape with PTSD. I searched for a place I could go, and had zero luck. I gained 60 pounds in less than a year and had trouble leaving the house while isolating myself from family and friends, struggling with panic attacks, nightmares, depression and anxiety alone.

This is where the idea for Sunlight Retreats for Survivors was born. The experience is still raw five years later, it will always be raw, but every time someone whispers to me that it happened to them too, or some bright young person kills themselves out of grief, it hurts much more. I cannot tolerate the silence and secrecy any longer.

This retreat will not solve the deep-seated trauma of rape, but my goal is to arm survivors with knowledge, self-care options, and an empowering network of fellow survivors to help them navigate - something that I wished was available for me five years ago.

You won't have to tell your story a thousand times and you won't be questioned. But you will get support. I know there is a better way to recover than what I went through, and I really wish I had something like this to jumpstart that process.

Sunlight Retreats for Survivors are safe, holistic retreat programs where survivors of rape can heal in person with peer support, volunteer counselors, and tools available to help them heal.

Our goal is to have our retreats in a beautiful, peaceful, safe setting where we can build lifelong friendships and a stronger network. 

One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. The cost and impact of rape costs approximately $151,423, and costs the US annually ($127 billion) more than any other crime. 94 percent of women report PTSD two weeks after the rape and 33% contemplate suicide. There currently are no ongoing retreats for rape survivors that address the science of sexual trauma.

Sunlight Retreat programs empower survivors with professionally lead discussions on recovery, PTSD, body image, self-esteem, triggers, and tools. Two out of three rapes go unreported. 70% of rape victims suffer distress and are more likely to consider suicide, use drugs, and have increased problems with relationships, school and work. Sunlight offers a healing outlet for proactive survivors to gain tools to combat their PTSD.

We also have a Male Retreat Program for Survivors of Rape interest list, and hope to set a date once we have 20 male survivors interested in attending. All retreats are LGBTQ friendly. Please feel free to reach out to us on our contact page for more information.

Rape Trauma Psychologist Dr. Shiva Ghaed

Dr. Shiva Ghaed

Volunteer Trauma Psychologist, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Shiva Ghaed is a California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, currently working for the Department of Mental Health in the Naval Medical Center San Diego healthcare system (Marine Corps Recruit Depot). Dr. Ghaed provides group and individual therapy to active duty patients in the catchment area, maintains ongoing involvement in academia and research, and has served as a voting member on the Institutional Review Board for NMCSD. Dr. Ghaed’s clinical experience includes several years of training and specialization in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare Systems of San Diego and Los Angeles. She completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the San Diego VA, specializing in anxiety disorders, non-combat trauma, and combat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans. Dr. Ghaed is a member of the American Psychological Association, and strives to maintain competency and excellence as a therapist and professional in her field. In 2015, she was presented with the Associate Master Clinician Award.

Dr. Ghaed’s formal education includes a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (Behavioral Medicine) from the Joint Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University (2008), an M.P.H. in Health Promotion (2006) and an M.S. in Psychology (2006) from SDSU, a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland (2001), and a B.S. in Zoology (Premedicine) from the George Washington University (1993). For the past 30 years, Dr. Ghaed has been involved in research ranging from bench research in the pure sciences to clinical research in the social sciences and psychology, and she has worked for world and nationally renowned organizations such as the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIH), the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. She was Project Director for an NIH-funded research study for several years, and has served in leadership positions at the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control, at NMCSD and Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton (NHCP). Dr. Ghaed regularly presents at professional conferences and grand rounds for a variety of mental health departments (including the VA, NHCP, and MCRD), local clinics, and universities. She has numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals, and has received honors and awards for excellence in her field throughout the course of her career.

Oct 1, 2017, Dr. Ghaed’s love of country music took her to Route 91 on the night of the shooting in Las Vegas and she, along with many others, witnessed the horror of that night as people around her were shot and killed. She found purpose and meaning in surviving the massacre, and made it her mission to give back to her community and help guide other Route 91 survivors in their healing. One week following the shooting, Dr. Ghaed launched a free weekly support group for survivors and their family and friends. She posted weekly therapy-based articles specifically catered to and witnessing the Route 91 community recovery process. Her goal is to help people better cope with the traumatic aftermath through education and support, and with the hope of preventing the development of PTSD. A website was created, www.route91therapy.com, to allow public access to these documents, and this information has been disseminated to the Route 91 community across the United States and Canada. In April, 2018, Dr. Ghaed was honored with the Citizens of Courage Award by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, and the National Hero Award by the American Red Cross (Metro New York).

There are still many people who have not connected to care or who do not have adequate social support or healthcare. Dr. Ghaed’s strong belief that healthcare is a basic human right, her faith in the resiliency of the human spirit, and her sense of obligation to serving others fuels a mission of destigmatizing mental illness through knowledge and awareness. In honor of the 1-year anniversary of the Las Vegas massacre (on Oct 1, 2018), Dr. Ghaed released her book, Route 91: Healing from Mass Violence and Trauma for free download on her new platform www.loveexpands.com. The book documents her experience surviving the massacre, as well as the journey of recovery since then, for her and her Route 91 community. She hopes that her book will provide insight into the process of recovering from mass violence, expected reactions, barriers to recovery, and tools to heal. Furthermore, her teachings are applicable to a broader audience who may suffer from anxiety, depression, or other types of trauma.