A Chicago woman who was rowing around Lake Michigan for her breast cancer awareness charity was attacked and sexually assaulted in Michigan during her 1,500 mile trip.
Jenn Gibbons, founder and coach of Recovery on Water, left June 15 from Chicago to become the first Lake Michigan solo rower. Her two-month trip was designed to raise awareness for the role exercise plays in the fight against breast cancer.
Gibbons was allegedly attacked in the early morning hours on Sunday, July 22 in an area south of Gulliver along Lake Michigan in Mueller Township, Schoolcraft County, Mich.
Police said she may have known her assailant.
"Investigators have reason to believe the assailant traveled a significant distance to commit the assault," read a release from the The Michigan State Police. The suspect is described as a white male in his 30s, approximately 5’8” to 6’ tall, with a fair amount of facial stubble hair, but not a full beard nor mustache. The man has light eyes, an average to athletic build and shorter well-kept hair. He was wearing a grayish green t-shirt, jean shorts and tennis shoes."
Police are looking for a bright yellow Jeep Wrangler.
Gibbons has posted a message on her Facebook page, and has asked to raise awareness about this incident. For that reason, NBC Chicago has decided to name her, despite the fact that she's a victim of sexual assault. Typically NBC News does not name victims of sexual attacks.
I have always tried to be transparent and honest about the obstacles of this trip in the hope that my openness and vulnerability might give someone strength or inspiration in their fight against cancer, or in pursuing a dream.
I know that I had a choice in telling people about the details of my attack, par...ticularly that it was a sexual assault. To go through this at all, let alone publicly, is extremely difficult. I chose to talk about it in the hope that someone might be able to provide more information about the person who did this to me.
Thank you for the endless amounts of support, prayers, and love. Please know that I am in the best of hands–with my family and in the protection of the Michigan State Police.
I still believe that there are more good people in the world than bad.
I still believe that life is a gift, even when it’s scary and unfair. I still believe that life offers us the privilege, the opportunity, and the responsibility, to give something back, even when people try to take things away from us.
Regarding the trip, one thing hasn’t changed: I’ve still got this. But the trip plan will change in a few ways to ensure my safety.
Most importantly, I will no longer be alone.
Tomorrow, Liv will be trailered to a secure location in Muskegon, Michigan until I can continue the trip on water sometime next week. From that point to Chicago we can ensure my safety on water since we’re confident that there are enough harbors and enough resources and volunteers to make it possible. Because we are unsure that I can be kept safe on the water in the miles between where I am currently and the point at which I will start rowing again, I will tackle them on land.
With thanks to a generous donor and the support of amazing volunteers, later this week I will continue traveling Lake Michigan’s perimeter by bicycle. A support crew will accompany me and ensure my safety day in and day out. When I get to Muskegon, Liv and I will reunite and keep pushing to get to Chicago sometime in mid-August, as we had originally planned.
My chin is up, my eyes are open, and we’re going to get this show back on the road (then water).