Last night my dad shared with me the story of Jenn Gibbons (yeah, I’m totally out of touch with the news). I have to take a break from my series to applaud her and encourage you to as well.
If you haven’t heard her story, Jenn is the cofounder of Recovery on Water (ROW) an organization that helps women recovering from breast cancer. Earlier this summer, she began rowing around the perimeter of Lake Michigan to raise support for her organization and awareness about how exercise can help in the fight against breast cancer(you can learn more about it by watching the video below). In mid-July, someone who was following her blog and tweets found her on her boat at night and sexually assaulted her.
Instead of giving up, Jenn continued on. First on bike, with a cohort of friends and family, and now in her boat again (though with an escort this time).
On the night before she returned to her boat she wrote a great blog titled “Overwhelmed.” She said,
When I see a familiar face or someone that loves me-I don’t want what happened to me be to be the thing I see in their eyes or feel in their arms when they hold me.
Tomorrow I’m getting in my boat. And when I get into the sleeping cabin to chart my course I could choose to remember the horrific thing that happened to me. I could make that choice. Or, I could choose to remember the beautiful nights I’ve looked up at a massive amount of stars that I never knew existed. In silence, in beauty, alone, safe and humbled. I could choose to remember the nights I fell asleep after meeting survivors and supporters from all over the country-who met me, fed me, hugged me, loved me-before I stepped into Liv to rest my mind and body each night. Each beautiful night, for weeks on end.
I applaud her for her bravery and modeling for herself how someone can move from vulnerable to recovering. Just as she has given cancer survivors the opportunity to reclaim their bodies for themselves, by continuing on her journey, she is reclaiming her own body for herself again.
True to her drive to encourage others, she has publically come forward, not to smear the man who assaulted her (so no men’s rights activists can say a thing against her), but to give other women hope. To illustrate with her courage and honesty, that no woman, that no one, who has been sexually assault should feel ashamed or bear the guilt. That they can reclaim their bodies and lives for themselves and are not defined by what happened to them (though it will impact them). The support, understanding and caring she has received also models what should be offered to all people who come through this.
If you pray, please keep her in her prayers. Not only for her safety through the remainder of her journey but for peace, comfort and healing. As a woman who is close to many women who have been sexually assaulted and abused, I know firsthand that no amount of optimism can fend off nightmares. That coping is still more challenging than a matter of willpower and courage. The realist in me cannot help but think ahead to when she is home, when the adrenaline of this trip has worn off, and the full force of her experience is able to settle in. My prayers will continue to be with her even then.