For 15 years, Jen Shipe kept a dark secret from her friends and her family. She was in too much pain and shame to admit she was raped when she was 18.
"I wanted to protect my family, my reputation and I just wanted to move on," said Shipe.
She calls it a crime of silence.
"My assault happened after a sporting event, a scholarship program, and with some pretty high profile people involved and I knew I didn’t stand a chance," said Shipe.
She hid the pain by burying herself into her studies at Penn State University. She was known as the cheerful, upbeat and optimistic friend. She thought success would help her heal. And in some ways, it did.
"Penn State saved my life. It did. I met my best friends, people I consider family. And they healed me without knowing it," Shipe said, wiping away tears.
But the pain of her sexual assault came rushing back when the sex abuse scandal broke at her alma mater. Penn State, the place where Shipe found solace, was being turned upside down by accusations that children had been sexually abused by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
"Anyone who knows me knows I am a die-hard Nittany Lion. My family went there, it's where I'm from, said Shipe. "And I heard this story and I didn't know how to react."
As Shipe watched the alleged victims come forward, she realized she couldn’t be silent anymore.
"It was a little bit of fear, and a little bit of grief, but then it came into fight back mode and that was pivotal point where I said it's time to do something."
As part of an effort by Penn State alums, Shipe donated to RAINN, which stands for Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. She shared her story with the charity, but she wanted to do more.
So, she started brainstorming a fundraiser that would be creative, unique and fun, while making the topic of sexual violence approachable.
She decided on a sporting event like no other.
"My friend's child had gotten an inflatable pony for Christmas and the adults were riding it. And we said, ‘What a great idea!’"
On May 19, hundreds of people gathered at Fred Wildlife Refuge on Seattle’s Capitol Hill for Rainn ‘Em In. Competitors bounced on inflatable horses in a relay to the finish line. Each team collected donations.
The totals are still coming in for the fundraiser, but it appears Shipe was able to raise $10,000 for RAINN. And she’s already planning another event in the fall.
Even more important than the money raised, Shipe wants to give people the courage to speak out if they’ve been the victim of sexual violence.
"If I can show the world in one simple way, in my small but mighty endeavor in Seattle, then I win," said Shipe. "I feel like I've taken one step further in my journey toward healing. This is just one step."
For more information on RAINN: www.rainn.org