Walking to her apartment in New York City from her summer associate job at a corporate law firm, Thea Rogers ’07 was grabbed by a man she had never seen before. As her head was slammed repeatedly into the side of an UPS truck, she could not believe what was happening to her. Rogers used the IMPACT training she had received at Marlborough to kick her attacker and attract enough passerby attention by screaming and waving her arms so that she could be rescued. She believed that it was her Marlborough training that helped to save her from further danger.
“My body had been trained instinctively to respond to fight instead of flight,” Rogers said.
Marlborough was the first school in the country to offer a self-defense course for a credit, and 2,000 girls have gone through the class since it was started in the ‘90s.
This school year, Lisa Gaeta, CEO and founder of IMPACT Personal Safety, Southern California, has returned to Marlborough school to teach the Self-Defense class that Rogers asserts saved her life. She will be replacing Heidi Hornbacher who taught the course in previous years.
Gaeta hopes to not only teach girls how to protect themselves but also encourage them.
“My goal is to give women and girls permission to take care of themselves,” Gaeta explained.
With a similar motivation, Rogers, a law student at Georgetown, is working with Georgetown Law School’s Director of Student Programming and Director of Campus Safety to implement an IMPACT program for female students like the one taught at Marlborough. Rogers felt that the safety courses offered at Georgetown were insufficient compared to what she took at Marlborough. Although Rogers took Self-Defense at Marlborough simply because she felt that she had exhausted other PE options, she stressed how important the course was to her.
“I never in a million years thought that I would need these skills. I really didn’t. The fact that I had to use it on a busy street in the middle of the day in a safe area of a major city really just goes to show you could be forced to use [IMPACT Personal Safety] skills anywhere and anytime. One of the biggest services you could do for yourself is to be sure to take [Self-Defense],” Rogers said.
Students enrolled in Self-Defense first learn verbal skills and afterwards learn physical skills on how to defend themselves. Physical Education Department Head and Athletic Coordinator Julie Napoleon finds the course to be valuable.
“I think that there are so many life lessons that the girls learn…[Gaeta’s] expertise will be phenomenal for the girls,” Napoleon commented.
Gaeta taught Marlborough students during the early 2000s. She is excited to be back at Marlborough as she appreciates all of her students.
“I love teaching at Marlborough. I find the students to be really engaged and happy to be in class and just really easy to work with,” Gaeta said.
Although some students initially thought she was a little intimidating, they appreciated her open approach to teaching Self-Defense.
“I feel like some teachers may sugar coat things or dance around the situation, but she’s very straightforward. I like that honesty,” Gracie ’17, one of Gaeta’s current students, mentioned.
This year, the course will be using The Safety Godmothers: The ABCs of Awareness, Boundaries and Confidence for Teens, a book co-written by Gaeta with Ellen Snortland. The book contains many topics that are part of class discussions and includes more than 20 real-life success stories where individuals survived through dangerous situations.
A survivor herself, Rogers encourages students to take Self-Defense at Marlborough.
“I really think that Self-Defense should be mandatory for graduation,” Rogers proclaimed.