GULLIVER, Mich. (WOOD) - Jenn Gibbons started her journey on June 15 in Chicago. The goal was to do something never done before -- row the perimeter of Lake Michigan, a journey of 1,500 miles.
Gibbons is originally from Battle Creek, started her rowing career at Michigan State University and lives in Chicago where she co-founded an organization called Recovery on Water, Inc. (ROW). It is "a rowing team that gives survivors of breast cancer the unique opportunity to interact, become active in their recovery, and gain support from fellow survivors."
Gibbons rows 30 miles a day, stopping only to sleep in port towns, and share the mission of ROW, raise funds and bring awareness to the vital tool that exercise plays in the fight against breast cancer.
As she was in Gulliver in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Sunday, state police said she was sexually assaulted by a man who "traveled a significant distance to commit the assault," according to a news release.
On Wednesday Michigan State Police released a sketch of the suspect. He is described as a white male in his 30s, about 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet tall, having a fair amount of facial stubble hair, light eyes, an average to athletic build and shorter well-kept hair, and wearing a grayish, green T-shirt, jean shorts and tennis shoes at the time.
A bright yellow Jeep Wrangler was seen in the area, police said, with a spare tire on the back with a yellow smiley face cover.
After the attack a message was posted on Gibbons' website Row4ROW.org, saying in part "Please know that Jenn is safe and in good hands. A statement from her about the trip and future plans will be made very soon. Please re-post this information and help us find this criminal."
If you know anything about this incident you are asked to call Michigan State Police at 1.866.411.0018.
Gibbons on Tuesday posted this statement on her website --
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, particularly 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).
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