She set out to accomplish something no other woman has done which should be cause for celebration. But Jenn Gibbons (photos below) suffered an ordeal that is almost unimaginable even in a world that is accustomed to creepy men inundating our news cycle. Let’s hear her story and celebrate her accomplishments rather than dwelling on her assault.
She is the heroic woman who set out to row solo around Lake Michigan which would have made her the first person in history to accomplish that awesome feat. The circumference of the lake measures fully 1,500 miles. Yet during her journey, in which she was alone in the boat, a man boarded her own watercraft and sexually assaulted her.
You can see a sketch of the perpetrator below in the picture gallery who is a Caucasian man possibly in his mid-30s and approaching 6′ tall, who may possibly have been driving a yellow Jeep Wrangler with a smiley face covering the spare tire on back. But enough of him because he doesn’t deserve the attention. We want to know more about Jenn herself and her cause.
Biography: Jenn Gibbons lives in Chicago, Illinois, which was the point of entry into the water for her great journey. She is a rowing coach by profession in the area for several clubs, including the Ignatius Chicago Crew (ICC) and the Chicago Rowing Union. In 2011 she was named nationwide as the Masters Coach of the Year by U.S. Rowing magazine.
That award and many others she has received have much to do with her inspirational charitable works. Jenn founded a group called Recovery on Water (ROW) which you can find here. It inspires cancer patients during recovery to get back on their feet (or behind the oars more specifically) and just do it. In fact her amazing trip around Lake Michigan was an attempt to draw attention to the cause rather than anything Jenn did for notoriety in itself. Ironically, the ordeal she suffered will bring far more attention to her passionate cause.
Jenn keeps a detailed blog there as a day by day account of her journey, which she shared with the world to bring attention to cancer survivors. It is that website which police believe was used by the attacker to find her exact whereabouts on the lake. Her last blog post is well worth reading. It brought tears to my eyes when she said “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.”
She has a Twitter page set up for publicity as well which you can find here. The lead announcement there is quite pertinent. Under the caption of the beautiful photo of Jenn which was taken after the attack she said “When I took this picture and smiled I realized it was the first time I’d really smiled in days. It felt great….” You can also enjoy Jenn’s Facebook page here which tells more about her biography and includes tons of great pics.
When she is not rowing, Jenn rides her bike, practices yoga, and is a serious marathon runner. You go girl. Thank you Jenn Gibbons for the wonderful work that you do on behalf of others, and thank you for inspiring us to persevere through difficulties.
Video: Row 4 Row with Jenn