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Jogger who was raped feels ‘empowered’ by show of support

The woman whose rape inspired fellow female joggers to organize a predawn run on Sunday to take back the streets of Hendersonville says she felt inspired and empowered by the event.

The woman talked about the early morning sexual assault, which happened when she was jogging near her home around 4 a.m. Tuesday.
“I was the victim,” she said as she approached a reporter covering the 5k run organizers dubbed "We Run This Town." “I love that they got all this together. It’s so empowering. I loved seeing the signs along the way. ‘We run Hendo.’ You want to not be a victim or let ourselves be victimized. It’s just really inspiring.”
Although she said she would continue to run, she’s already lost something that was part of her routine. “I won’t be running at odd hours,” she said.
Her niece, a staff sergeant in the military, flew to Hendersonville from Alaska to support her.
“She ran with me the whole way,” the woman said. “It’s the first time I’ve run since the incident.”
A fit 70-year-old who has been jogging since age 23, she wanted to get a run in early Tuesday before leaving for her part-time job. “I had a busy day.” She was near West Lake Drive and Third Avenue West when she was attacked.
“I thought I heard something behind me,” she said. “He rolled me over and tore off my pants and it was the full rape, sexual assault.”
When she screamed for help, he told her to keep quiet or he would kill her.
“The worst part was feeling violated. I was half naked,” she said. “At the end, it was weird. He said he was sorry. I rolled over and I was going to play dead and when I turned over he was gone.”
She flagged down a passing car — she thought it was a newspaper carrier — and got a ride home. She later went to Pardee Hospital, where she was treated in the emergency room. A visible sign of the attack — a cut and swelled-up bruise on the right corner of her mouth — remained five days afterwards.
Police Chief Hubert Blake and Detective Bruce Darrah said Friday that the department has no suspects. The woman’s inability to provide a detailed description of the rapist because of the darkness has stymied the investigation. There's no rape kit.
“They offered that to me but I refused because it was exhausting to be in the hospital and I still had some internal pain,” the woman said.
Local runners Wilma Baldwin, Jennifer Love and Anne Hodge exchanged text messages shortly after hearing about the predawn assault. Their decision to meet for an early morning group run grew into Sunday’s event. The organizers said they were gratified that the jogger who inspired the event was one of the runners.
“I knew it was possible” that she would participate, Hodge said. “Wilma met her yesterday at a class at the Y and she said the event had inspired her to get through the week.”
Tanya Blackford, the executive director of Safelight and an early morning runner, participated in the run. Safelight is a shelter in Hendersonville for victims of domestic violence.
What did she think of the fact that the rape victim was there?
“It’s phenomenal,” she said. “I think that’s the best part of the whole thing. I think one of the things that makes it so hard is we don’t talk about it. We say sexual assault and not rape. People don’t feel supported. That community support makes all the difference.”