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Tiger Schulmann's, Elizabeth Butler Foundation, Team Up for Women's Safety

Women's safety seminar includes tips on how to avoid dangerous situations and domestic abuse.

Speaking before a crowd of a dozen on Saturday, instructor Gillian Grandy described many scenarios not only in which women can find themselves in danger, but also in how they can prepare and fight back.

"Any one of us could become a potential victim," Grandy told the all-female crowd at the Mount Kisco martial arts studio.

During the course of the seminar, Grandy discussed ways in which women can protect themselves from rape or physical assaults. She emphasized the need for planning and anticipating your surrroundings, similar to how drivers are instructed to avoid vehicle accidents.

"We should always look straight ahead," Grandy told the crowd, instructing women to scan the areas in which they're walking.

Among the safety best practices she advised were to thoroughly check their cars - including under the vehicles and in back seats - pay attention to where you're going, take advantage of safety escort services, and to have distance-based zones of personal safety, with closer zones only being reserved for those you trust.

She was followed by fellow instructor Joshu Larry Byrnes, who acted out a series of defensive techniques for women to fight back against assailants. He also got the attendees to try them out among each other.

The women's safety seminar was backed by the Elizabeth Butler Foundation, which is named after a North Salem teen who was murdered and raped in 2005. Ariel Menendez, who was her boyfriend and went by the assumed name of "Carlos" during the relationship, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. The foundation works to fight domestic violence and to promote women's safety.

Patti Butler, Elizabeth's mother, praised the acting out of potential situations and said, “There’s nothing like the real thing, of thinking about what could happen.”

The foundation's work with Tiger Schulmann's, the first ever, was steered by Elizabeth Crenson, who grew up in North Salem and attended North Salem High School with Butler. Crenson, who works for Mount Kisco-based public relations firm Co-Communications, works out at the martial arts center. Her step mother, Mary Jane Acito-Crenson, is on the board of the foundation.

"It's definitely hands on," Crenson said about the program.

Heather Beall, who knew Butler in high school - she was friends with her brother and they were on the ski team together - came out for support.

"I thought it was great," she said about the event.

Another important part of the seminar touched upon avoiding abusive relationships and to practice safe dating with someone you have just met. T

One of the important things for the foundation, Patti Bulter explained, is to educate parents.

“I mean, it just wasn’t something that I ever thought would happen to my daughter and wasn’t really a part of my world, Patti Butler said about what happened.

Dating advice mentioned includes being in a public place, have separate cars and have a plan for ending the date.

Byrnes described how Tiger Schulmann's has supported efforts recently for defense, including a child safety program.

He said that any organization that devotes itself to keeping people safe, "I want to be a part of."

The Elizabeth Butler Foundation does many things to support education against abusive relationships. Events include an annual walk every October in Elizabeth's honor, held near North Salem's Titicus Reservior, and the  “Art Against Abuse” program. The arts program involves having teens create art that deals with abuse as an issue, and it is then displayed at the walk. Art works will be brought up to Albany for display later this year with the help of state Sen. Greg Ball, Patti Bulter said.

To learn more about the foundation, you can check out its website, egbaf.tripod.com. There is also a Facebook page for the foundation and a Tumblr profile.

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