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Jogger assault sparks Sunday run for awareness

An idea that started as a group run by a handful of young moms has grown into a sunrise walk-run on Sunday to raise safety awareness on sexual assault.

Days after Hendersonville police reported that a jogger had been attacked and sexually assaulted during a night-time run near West Lake Drive and Third Avenue West, the women joggers began texting one another to arrange a group run. By Friday, the group had a Facebook page, We Run This Town, and 70 commitments to participate in the walk-run, which starts at 6:30 a.m. at the YMCA.
“We put an event on Facebook and around 900 people have been invited to it,” said Anne Hodge, a runner who is the mother of four young daughters. “So far there are around 70 that are saying they’re going to be attending and another 70 who said they might be attending.”
The 5k run will go east down Fifth Avenue to Main Street, west on Fourth and Fifth to Laurel Park then back to the Y,
“It’s a run-walk in recognition of the assault victim from earlier this week and in support of women in general and being able to continue to do what we love,” Hodge said. “Running and walking is something that we do to feel better about ourselves. It makes us feel strong and we don’t want something taken away from women due to fear and what may happen. We hope it’s a time that women can find women with similar interest and maybe find a buddy to go on run-walks with and be little safer.”
Hodge first heard about the run from two friends, Jennifer Love and Wilma Baldwin, who are also runners.
Police Chief Hubert Blake said Friday that investigators have no leads and have been unable to talk to the victim since she made the report. The woman, whom the chief said was “in her 70s or close to 70,” was treated at Pardee Hospital and released after the attack, which happened between 3 and 4 in the morning. Blake said the department has not issued a description of an assailant because it has no details about his appearance.
“It’s very very frustrating for us,” he said. “We can’t go any further until we talk to her. We’re still trying to get more information from her or anybody else that has anything to offer.”
Female runners, many of them young moms who run early in the day before they get their children off to school, are uniting for awareness and safety.
“We do wish more information was provided,” Hodge said. “I was just at a class earlier this morning and there were several people that didn’t know anything about it. People do need to be aware just for their own safety.”
Because organizers did not get a street permit, walkers and joggers must stay on the sidewalk. They will be required to join with someone else in the buddy system. Hendersonville and Laurel Park police and the county sheriff's office is aware of the event and will be monitoring the course, Hodge said.
“We are just asking participants to wear bright reflective gear,” she said. “We’ve also put it out there that people are welcome to wear T-shirts with supportive things.”