Woman Rowing Perimeter of Lake Michigan Sexually Assaulted

Woman was rowing around perimeter of Lake Michigan for cancer charity.

July 25, 2012, 2:02 PM

July 25, 2012— -- Cancer fundraiser Jennifer Gibbons said she would not be deterred from her goal of rowing completely around the circumference of Lake Michigan following a sexual assault against her this week.

Gibbons, 27, has been rowing 1,500 miles around the border of Lake Michigan by herself since early June to raise money and awareness for her cancer survivor charity, Recovery on Water.

On Sunday, however, as Gibbons prepared to begin rowing in the early morning hours toward Beaver Island near Michigan's Northern Peninsula, a man attacked her and sexually assaulted her, according to her website, Row 4 Row.

Gibbons told the Chicago Tribune the man came aboard her rowboat and entered the cabin where she was.

Michigan State Police told ABC News that the man may have traveled "significant distance" to commit the assault. The man may have followed the blog Gibbons was keeping to update readers on her journey. Police are still searching for the suspected assailant and have released a detailed sketch and description of the man's vehicle that was seen in the are after the attack, a bright yellow Jeep Wrangler with a smiley face.

The assailant was in his 30s, approximately 5'8 to six feet tall, with facial hair and light eyes, police said.

Gibbons, who had been rowing up to 30 miles a day on the solo journey, wrote in a blog post Tuesday that she would not give up.

"I still believe that there are more good people in the world than bad," she wrote. "Regarding the trip, one thing hasn't changed: I've still got this."

Gibbons said that the only thing that will change about her trip is the time spent alone in the water. Michigan State Police will accompany her as she continues part of her journey through the remote Michigan area on bicycle, and then completes the trek in the water, rowing once more.

"Most importantly, I will no longer be alone," she wrote.

Calls to Gibbons today were not returned.

The former University of Michigan rower and rowing coach had been attempting to become the first person to row alone around the perimeter of the lake, using a custom-built rowboat named "Liv" that successfully transported rower Paul Ridley across the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.

"My chin is up, my eyes are open, and we're going to get this show back on the road (then water)," Gibbons said.