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Undaunted By Attack, Woman Completes Rowing Journey Around Lake Michigan

Rower Jenn Gibbons completes her journey around Lake Michigan. (Credit: Mai Martinez/CBS Chicago)

Rower Jenn Gibbons completes her journey around Lake Michigan. (Credit: Mai Martinez/CBS Chicago)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago woman is back home after going all around Lake Michigan in a rowboat to raise money for charity.

WBBM’s Regine Schlesinger and CBS 2’s Mai Martinez report, she completed the trip despite a violent attack last month in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

There were tears and cheers as 27-year-old Jenn Gibbons rowed back into the Chicago Yacht Club. The same place where she started her journey in June.

Along the way, a man sexually assaulted her on July 22 as she slept in her boat south of Gulliver, Mich.

She managed to escape and call police, but her attacker got away.

She was determined to complete her mission, and many were overcome by the joy of seeing her and the sadness of knowing what she had been through.

“Quitting was never really something that came to mind,” Gibbons said. “I did have this one really awful experience, and there were some really, really hard days, but I can count so many more great days, and so many more wonderful people that I met.”

After the attack, Gibbons chose to continue her journey by bicycle until she felt safe enough to get back in the water.

Her strength and dedication inspired others. Many reached out via her Facebook page.

“And on a daily basis, I needed that support,” she said.

Now, Gibbons plans to use her experience to support others.

“So many women and victims of sexual assaults, are women who don’t necessarily have the voice that I do or the audience that I do,” she said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger Reports

“I’m still here, doing what I’m doing,” Gibbons said. “And I’m still healing and still using exercise to recover myself. It’s no better opportunity than to get back in the boat and get back home to Chicago.”

She raised $113,000 for her charity, ROW, Recovery on Water, which promotes exercise as a way for breast cancer patients to heal.

“I learned about myself and I learned that I’m extremely strong and a lot stronger than I thought I was,” she said.

As she stepped off the dock to the cheers of supporters, Gibbons unfurled a Chicago flag Mayor Emanuel gave her.

Gibbons, who quit her job with Groupon to make the trip, says she’s now planning to write a book about it.

Jenn Gibbons

Jenn Gibbons is rowing around the perimeter of Lake Michigan for charity. (Credit: Row4ROW)

The rapist who attacked Gibbons hasn’t been caught, but Gibbons says she’s confident the Michigan state police eventually will find him.