Turning Vanessa Marcotte Tragedy Into Something Positive For Girls

Rebecca BlackwellAP Images

In order to have something positive come out of the tragic murder of Google employee Vanessa Marcotte, her friends and family started the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation to help create a world where women are safe by creating classes and workshops that promote female empowerment including self-defense. The organization provides mentorship opportunities and strives to “challenge and undermine gender stereotypes.

“We need to advocate for a world where women are safe and free to live boldly.”

The Murder Of Vanessa Marcotte

In 2016, Vanessa Marcotte was visiting her mother in Princeton, Massachusetts when during a run in a local park during the day, she was sexually assaulted, killed, and set on fire to destroy evidence. Though the killer burned Marcotte’s hands in an attempt to destroy the DNA under her fingernails from fighting back, eight months later the FBI was able to make a match and arrest a Worcester, Mass. man, Angelo Colon-Ortiz.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early, Jr. held a press conference after the arrest to let the Princeton community know they finally had their man.

“We got him. There is also one other person I’d like to thank in this case, and that would be Vanessa Marcotte. It was through her determined fight and her efforts that we obtained the DNA of her killer.”

The Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation Hosts Krav Maga Self-Defense Classes

Since the untimely passing of Vanessa Marcotte, the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation has made efforts to create classes and events for women of all ages. One such event is STRIKE for Vanessa, a class for 300 women at Boston University, Marcotte’s Alma Mater to learn self-defense moves in a community of women.

And the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation is trying to get an early start, offering classes at Girls, Inc. in Worcester, Mass., according to the Telegram. Security expert and Krav Maga instructor Avital Zeisler met with over thirty girls, who ranged in age from 5th to 9th grade in order to help foster a survival mindset. Ms. Zeisler was on her way to the STRIKE for Vanessa event but wanted to meet with the girls of the Worcester Girls, Inc. to teach some moves and present a $25k grant for self-defense and media literacy programs.

Girls Inc. CEO Victoria Waterman said the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation’s mission statement of creating a culture of bold, aware women blends well with the goals of Girls, Inc. Waterman says the funding from the Marcotte Foundation will allow Girls, Inc. to create year-round programs.


“It’s a good fit.”

Briana Jimenez, a local fifth-grader aided Ms. Zeisler in demonstrations for the class and says she feels confident that she can use what she learned to protect herself going forward.

“I felt confident that I could learn the stuff.”

Jimenez said she was excited to tell her mother about the things she learned in the Krav Maga class. Caroline Tocci and Ashley McNiff, friends of Vanessa Marcotte and co-founders of the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation say they try to combine Marcotte’s “interests and passions” into programs for girls and women.

Rossana Marcotte, Vanessa Marcotte’s mother says that she hopes that with classes like the ones at Girls, Inc., and STRIKE for Vanessa, she hopes that what happened to Vanessa can be avoided for someone else.