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Personal Safety Skills Empower Women

Six sessions were held in Westborough, three each on Friday and Saturday.

Tossing keys or yelling “stop!” or “fire!” can help a woman escape from an attacker by distracting them, personal safety trainer Ellen van Olden told local women Friday in Westborough.

SAM Training LLC’s "Empower The Girls We Love: Personal Safety Training 101" program drew more than 150 women to the Tatnuck Bookseller among the six three-hour sessions, three each on Friday and Saturday, said resident Alisa Stone, who organized the program.

All six sessions sold out, according to SAM Training’s website. Stone said the turnout “far exceeded” the expectations held by her and van Olden, one of SAM Training’s founding principals.

“I see a lot of participation. We had smiles and giggles,” Stone said after the second Friday session.

“The feeling of empowerment feels good. And I think as people learn those skills, they feel better. “

There was a $35 fee. "Proceeds above the costs to produce the event will be donated to the Marriott Family Fund," according to SAM Training's website.

Stone arranged for the program. She says being mugged, a desire to train her family in safety techniques, and the murder of Westborough teenager Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott inspired her to do so.

However, the tragedy was “not the motivator” in the room, Stone said.

“It’s an empowerment. It’s not dwelling on a negative. It’s building into a positive. And so many things have happened, unfortunately, since Lizzi,” Stone said.

Van Olden and SAM Advisory Board members Michael Kaselouskas and Terry Smith worked with the participants on knowing how to move if attacked.

Creating a distraction is one skill, van Olden said.

“Your goal for your attacker is to disable and get away,” said Kaselouskas, the assistant chief of the University of Hartford’s department of public safety.

Knowing where to strike an attacker is important as well, they said.

“You can hit somebody 20 times and not have as powerful an impact as one time,” van Olden said.

Maine Maritime Academy senior Francine Grains she will remember the basic skills she learned Friday, “and just being aware of your surroundings in situations.”

“Where my school is, it’s a very remote location, so you don’t usually have a lot of issues where we are,” Grains said.

“If something were to happen, it would probably be a big deal for us, because the police could be up to a half hour away.”

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