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Sex assault survivor runs blindfolded to raise awareness

Click to play video 'Calgary sex assault survivor runs blindfolded to raise awareness' Calgary sex assault survivor runs blindfolded to raise awareness
WATCH: It's an incredible example of triumph from tragedy. As Jill Croteau reports, a Calgary woman has tried to find purpose from a traumatic experience that almost cost her, her life.

A Calgary woman’s horrific trauma has compelled her to help others who have endured the same experience.

“I was downtown in the city of Toronto after a night out and was approached by a man who claimed to be an uber driver, unfortunately, he wasn’t, he was posing as one,” Stephanie Thompson said.

“I got in the vehicle and was trapped and raped and assaulted,” Thompson recalled.

Following the assault several years ago, Thompson said she suffered from PTSD and depression.

Stephanie and Jan training together.
Stephanie and Jan training together. Jill Croteau/Global News

“You feel completely consumed by darkness and it’s hard to see a light and you don’t think you’re going to be okay,” Thompson said.

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“I’m being blunt here, there were days I thought there’s no way I’m going to make it through this.”

She knew she couldn’t change what happened to her and wanted to find purpose from her pain. Her brave instincts have led her to take on a courageous challenge like no other, running blindfolded.

“It’s absolutely terrifying but so powerful,” Thompson said.

She wanted to do something that mirrored those bleak bouts of depression and darkness following the assault.

“I can’t see a single thing, whether it’s a 10 kilometre or a half marathon, that’s hours of running without seeing anything and being consumed by your thoughts and triggers and flashbacks that hit me as I’m running,” Thompson said.

“The reason I came up with the concept is because running in darkness is very symbolic of mental health challenges and depression.”

In hopes of spurring healthy conversation, Thompson started an online initiative as an awareness campaign for women’s mental health.

Thompson said ‘Light Up The Dark’ is a space for others to share their own stories and struggles.

“Every day I am moved and inspired by other stories and it’s been powerful to see the people who have reached out to me saying: ‘You’re the reason I’m sharing my story. You’re the reason I’m moving forward. You’re the reason I wake up,'” she said.

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Stephanie and Jan running through Eau Claire.
Stephanie and Jan running through Eau Claire. Jill Croteau/Global News

Thompson runs with the help of guide, Jan Wood.

Wood said she didn’t hesitate when it came to being Thompson’s eye’s on the road. She said she feels privileged to support Thompson’s mission.

“It is such an honor. I take it seriously. We talk about it a lot,” Wood said.

“She is putting herself in my hands. I asked her for constant feedback and it was important I served her.”

On Sunday, Wood is helping Stephanie complete the 10 kilometre Run For Women.

The virtual run aims to support women’s mental health.

“What I admire is, she has experienced a horror and chose to deal with the shame and social stigma and talk about it,” Wood said.

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“It gives others a vehicle to talk about it.”

In the future, Thompson hopes to train for a marathon but says she isn’t competing for any medals as she knows there is no finish line to her mission.

“It gives you a ton of compassion and empathy for other people because you don’t know the battles of others,” Thompson said.