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WHY SUNLIGHT RETREATS?

Our Belief: The phone and online are naturally impersonal—sexual trauma can only be supported and healing can begin when people are brought together to address the unique symptoms of trauma, human to human.

By offering an accelerated healing experience with a foundation in trauma education, Sunlight Retreats offers a holistic, scientific and peer-supported pathway to post-traumatic growth in mind, body and spirit.

Meet The Sunlight Team

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Founder Brittany Catton Kirk

Social Entreprenuer and Rape Survivor

 

Brittany Catton Kirk is the Founder and Executive Director of the Social Enterprise Sunlight Retreats for Survivors, an accelerator for healing for survivors of rape. After being attacked overseas in 2012, she struggled in her career, relationships and gained 60 pounds as she tried to recover from her attack and Post Traumatic Stress. She looked for a safe place to go and heal but found nothing so she created Sunlight Retreats for Survivors. Drawing on her ten years’ experience creating award-winning programming for military families and wounded warriors at the San Diego Armed Services YMCA, she set out to create a tangible in-person program to empower survivors with tools, trauma education, resilience training and peer support. Sunlight Retreats is a changemaking program that gives survivors a better way to heal, so that they can rebuild and empower others. 100 percent of the forty participants from the first two retreats reported via anonymous survey that they would recommend Sunlight Retreats to a fellow survivor, 100 percent said it aided them in their healing, and 100 percent said Sunlight Retreats made them stronger. Brittany is married to Lieutenant Commander Brian Kirk. They reside in San Diego, CA, with their two sons, Cal, age 2, and Bo, age 6 months.

 
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.

 

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Sunlight Retreats is a new model of healing for survivors of rape.

Traditional outlets like rehab and individual therapy can be cost prohibitive and fail to address the unique issues which include PTSD, anxiety, depression, body image and self-esteem issues. Sunlight Retreats is an accelerator for healing, where many proven services are available for survivors to sample and experiment with in an intensive 3-4 day retreat. In a peaceful, beautiful setting, it allows survivors to be removed from the pressures of family and work and enables them to focus exclusively on their own healing with others who understand. Sunlight Retreats educates survivors on the science of trauma and how to grow beyond trauma, with interactive workshops with sexual trauma psychologist Dr. Shiva Ghaed. This education helps survivors understand their reactions are often normal and how to counteract them in a healthy manner.  Survivors can experience programs like acupuncture, restorative yoga, healthy cooking, self-defense, service animals and NET Therapy to see what works best for them. These services are free of charge and organized for them by volunteers, which greatly reduces financial stress to those overwhelmed by depression, anxiety and PTSD. Survey results and testimonials from the 40 individuals to date who have participated in the Sunlight Retreats confirm the absolute need and value of this program. Sunlight Retreats is a change making, scalable Social Enterprise that gives survivors a better way to jumpstart healing, so that they can rebuild and empower others.

Sunlight Stats on Rape Demonstrate the Need

After her attack in 2012, Sunlight Retreats Founder Brittany Catton Kirk launched an anonymous online survey for survivors in order to better understand the real-world issues facing survivors, and not just the clinical diagnosis. To date since 2013, 181 Survivors have taken the Sunlight Survey. Out of 181 responses, 122 survivors had thoughts of suicide, 48 had attempted suicide, 139 suffered from PTSD, 156 suffered from depression, 161 suffered anxiety, 81 suffered from substance abuse, 116 gained or lost weight, 144 suffered alienation from loved ones, 130 had nightmares, 127 had traumatic memory recall, and 126 feared for their safety.

 The majority of survivors (73.5 percent) reported these symptoms to be ongoing, meaning that available resources were not working. Another key finding shed light on the isolation of rape, with survivors struggling to share their rape with their support network. The survey indicated that rape survivors shared their rape experience: 55% with friends, 41.4% with a counselor,18% with their doctor, 11.6% in group therapy, and 6% in a rehab facility, while 33% of survivors told no one about the rape. These statistics proved to Brittany that many survivors struggled without a network of support.

 During the interest list and application phase of each Sunlight Retreat, Brittany asks for feedback and tailors each retreat to the needs of the applicant pool. Additionally, at the end of each Sunlight Retreat, survivors take a different anonymous survey. 100% of survivors have reported via this survey that the retreat benefitted their healing. 100% of survivors would recommend Sunlight Retreats to a fellow survivor, and 100% felt stronger after the Sunlight Retreat. Success stories include a Human Trafficking Survivor who went back to her nonprofit work in the Bay Area. Aly, who was featured in a SanDiego Union Tribune article (7/5/18) on Sunlight Retreats reported, “I think without the retreat, I would have felt alone, like, forever. To be surrounded by people who get it, that helped me get it. I feel like I can actually move on with my life. I have never felt the same since that retreat.” Aly left a domestic violence situation, found her dream job as a flight attendant and got back to working out and volunteering after the retreat. Another grateful participant is a nurse who had been in intensive therapy and out on medical disability for PTSD who returned to work and testified that she learned more in one weekend at Sunlight Retreats more than 5 years of therapy to the San Diego Union Tribune (3/4/19).

 

“Survivors need more than an anonymous hotline to recover from sexual trauma.”- Sunlight Retreats Founder Brittany Catton Kirk

“Survivors need more than an anonymous hotline to recover from sexual trauma.”- Sunlight Retreats Founder Brittany Catton Kirk