RAINN ‘EM IN is a horse race held at Emerald Downs, but the horses are inflatable, and the Jockeys are, well, you and your friends dressed up in costumes.
Now you might be wondering what inflatable horses and sexual assault have to do with each other, and the answer is simple: nothing, really. The horses aren’t symbolic and the costumes are entirely up to you, but the result? Bringing groups of people together, in a fun, safe, loving environment to support survivors and raise awareness about a very serious topic? That makes sense to me.
“I want to make people laugh until they cry,” explains Jen Shipe, creator and founder of RAINN ‘EM IN, “and this event will force them to laugh. It is a race. But the race is secondary to the joy and camaraderie shared among teams and supporters.”
For 15 years, Jen Shipe tried to protect her family and friends from the atrocity she experienced the summer before starting college at Penn State. She was gang raped by a group of football players after a big scholarship event in Pennsylvania.
“I knew it would be my word against theirs, and I wanted to spare my family the agony and shame of going through all that. I just wanted to move on.”
That was until three years ago when Jerry Sandusky, football coach at Penn State, was arrested for sexual assault. Hearing this news reopened Jen’s wound, and ignited a fire.
“It was a little bit of fear, and a little bit of grief, but that turned into fight back mode, and that was the point where I said, it’s time to do something.”
The human-powered horse race is in its third year and has raised enough to help 4,000 survivors get help through RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Jen is looking for individuals and groups willing to dress up, get silly, and help victims, like Jen, learn to fight, to survive, to live and to smile.
Photography by: Sweet Betty Jean