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Posted at 4:58 PM ET, 02/15/2011

'It never leaves you'

By Audrey Rasmussen, Alexandria

Thank you for publishing the account of Halle Shilling [“Running for my life,” Outlook, Feb. 13]. There is a sisterhood of women who have experienced similar horrific events. My own terror came on a run in late September 1987, when a familiar path was darker because of shorter daylight hours.

I was running the Mount Vernon trail just south of an abandoned Ford plant on the way back to my house in Alexandria. That part of the trail runs through woods along the Potomac. I hesitated before I went in but then saw another woman running out. I was half way through when I was grabbed violently from behind. My first thought was: “This is what they warned you about.”

I became more focused than I have ever been before or since. My thoughts were directed only to that moment. I was determined to fight as long as I could. I started screaming and struggling, my headset flying off. He was trying to get me into the woods, but I wouldn’t budge. Finally, he threw me on the ground and ran off. I lay there for a minute still screaming, then I actually had to tell myself to get up and go. When I was running out of the woods, I saw another runner coming in. I stopped screaming and told him that I had just been attacked. He said that he had heard screams coming from the trail but he thought they were from was a wild animal. I said, “It was. Me.”

My headset was found along the path by the Alexandria police. For a few weeks, I saw what might have been undercover police on the trail, but I never ran in those woods again.

A few months later, while I was running, I joined a group of runners who included a friend whom I told about my attack. He introduced me to a woman in the group who had also been attacked along the trail. Another sister.

I don’t know what happened to my assailant, but I do know how that attack affected me. When I read Ms. Shilling’s story, it brought everything back as clearly as if it had just happened. It never leaves you.

By Audrey Rasmussen, Alexandria  | February 15, 2011; 4:58 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Virginia, crime  
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"For a few weeks, I saw what might have been undercover police on the trail, but I never ran in those woods again. "

She's attacked on the trail in the woods, but the police monitor the trail outside of the woods. Wouldn't it have been better for the police to monitor the trail IN THE WOODS (where attacks are most likely to occur) rather than outside the woods?

Posted by: ahashburn | February 16, 2011 4:41 AM | Report abuse

You should never run with a headset on!

Posted by: dujack | February 16, 2011 5:26 AM | Report abuse

Please don't run alone if your route takes you through isolated areas. I know it's easy to say, and you shouldn't have to be forced to do so because of predators, but...

Posted by: jckdoors | February 16, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I knew somebody who was attacked by a would-be rapist acquaintance.

She fought like hell for her life and safety and somehow managed to thwart her attacker. (She's an incredibly ferocious and spirited person.)

She had screaming PTSD-type nightmares reliving the attack many years later. (I lived with her at the time; it was truly horrible witnessing somebody reliving that kind of extreme fear/trauma in their sleep.)

My point in sharing my friend's story is this:

Even if an assault survivor isn't ultimately sexually violated by her/his attacker, the shock and violence of the attempted attack can be harrowing and traumatizing in itself.

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 16, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

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