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Rower Who Was Attacked Amends Focus of Journey

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A woman on a two-month rowing trip to raise awareness for the role exercise plays in the fight against breast cancer was allegedly attacked July 22 in Michigan. Jeff Goldblatt reports. (Published Tuesday, Jul 24, 2012)

    A woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted while on a two-month cancer awareness mission says she remains frightened but isn't going to let the attack slow her down.

    "This isn't easy. I don't want to talk about details, but it did happen to me," Jenn Gibbons said Tuesday via telephone.

    Rower Departs For Solo Lake Michigan Trip

    [CHI] Rower Departs For Solo Lake Michigan Trip
    Jenn Gibbons, founder and coach of Recovery on Water, departs Friday to become the first Lake Michigan solo rower. She talks to NBC 5's Lauren Petty about the two-month, 1,500-mile trip to raise awareness for the role exercise plays in the fight against breast cancer (Published Friday, Jun 15, 2012)

    Gibbons is trying to become the first person to solo-row the entire 1,500-mile perimeter of Lake Michigan in an effort to show the role exercise plays in the fight against breast cancer.

    But on Sunday, while in an area south of Gulliver along Lake Michigan in Mueller Township, Schoolcraft County, Mich., she says a man boarded her boat and assaulted her.

    Police believe Gibbons' attacker traveled a significant distance, perhaps following her on the Internet.

    "This entire trip has really open and honest about the obstacles, and I think that's kind of been a two-way street with the people that have been following my trip," said Gibbons, who is the head coach with the Recovery on Water charity.

    She vowed to continue blogging about her journey and is determined to finish it in Chicago, but now as an advocate for victims of sexual assault.

    "This is an experience that changes my trip. Because I need to be safer. But it doesn't mean that it has to become such an overwhelming aspect of what I'm doing that I can't go on," she said. "I'm absolutely going to continue and continue to share."

    She admits she's scared, but said that's not unusual.

    "I get scared everyday," she said. "I get scared by six-foot waves."

    Police on Tuesday released a composite sketch of the man they say attacked Gibbons.

    "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," read a statement from the Michigan State Police.

    Authorities said they're also looking for a bright yellow Jeep Wrangler with a smiley face on the spare tire cover.

    Gibbons spoke out about this incident to NBC Chicago and on her Facebook page in an effort to raise awareness about this incident. For that reason, NBC Chicago has decided to name her, despite the fact that she is a victim of sexual assault.

    Typically, NBC News does not name the victims of sexual attacks.