Under New Law, Salon Pros Must Take Domestic Violence Training
We always say hairdressers touch more hearts than hair, and a new law in Illinois might prove what we at BTC have known all along. Under the law, all salon professionals in Illinois must complete a one-hour training course to learn how to spot signs of domestic violence and sexual assault, express support for their clients and suggest helpful resources. The law mandates all salon pros take the course as a requirement for renewing their two-year license. For subsequent renewals, they may choose to satisfy one hour of their continuing education requirement by taking an approved domestic violence and sexual assault awareness course.
“We have long understood the influential role stylists play in their clients’ lives,” says Steve Sleeper, Executive Director of the Professional Beauty Association and the Cut It Out program, which is dedicated to mobilizing salon pros in the fight against domestic abuse. “Salon professionals are in a unique position to recognize the signs of abuse in their clients. Because of this intimate and nurturing nature of the relationship, hairdressers can often spot signs of physical abuse that others may never see.”
“It’s one thing learning the technical side of hair,” says Susan Hurley, a manager at Art + Science Salon in Chicago, “and then you go through your apprenticeship and earn your chair and get on the floor. And then there’s this whole other side to it…where people confide in you and trust you and ask you for advice. And the more you do it—the more you build those relationships—the more natural it becomes. But in the beginning, it is a little overwhelming. So I think any type of training or education about how to listen and what to say if someone is confiding in you is amazing.”
An initiative of Chicago Says No More, an organization created to generate public awareness about domestic violence, House Bill 4264 was signed into law in August and will take effect in January 2017. Illinois is the first in the U.S. to support this kind of education and awareness training for a specific group of professionals.
The program, called Listen. Support. Connect., was designed exclusively for salon professionals, and was planned and developed by Chicago Says No More and Cosmetologists Chicago. The first time salon pros will be able to take the curriculum is at America’s Beauty Show in March. Kristie Paskvan, founder of Chicago Says No More, says initially the training will only be offered in person, but in the future, she hopes to offer it online, too.
For George Gonzalez, a salon owner in Chicago, the issue hits close to home—and when he was asked to testify in support of the legislation, he says it was a no-brainer. “A hair salon is one of a few places a woman can go and talk to somebody in private—away from her abuser,” he says. “When I opened my salon, I knew I would help victims of domestic violence. As a young child, I witnessed my mother abused by her second husband. As an adult, I always questioned why we went through that. I’m a stylist—someone who tries to renew people’s self-esteem. But I also have this connection to domestic violence, which is the exact opposite. People are stealing your self-esteem. So my business was created with the intention of helping these women. It made perfect sense.”
What kind of warning signs will the Listen. Support. Connect. curriculum train salon pros to look out for? Here are some signals Kristie and Steve say hairdressers should be aware of:
Bruises around the head and neck
Evidence of hair pulling
A client who is always accompanied to the salon by their
spouse or significant other
A client’s cell phone ringing an inordinate number of times during an appointment
Discussion about not being “allowed” to change their hairstyle
Difficulty in keeping appointments and odd explanations for injuries.
“Casual conversations provide valuable insights into a victim’s life, especially if they indicate isolation from friends and family, worry excessively about being home on time or comment about their partner’s controlling or jealous behavior,” adds Steve.
Listen. Support. Connect. will help hairdressers identify these signs and provide insight into how they can help. If you do notice something, George and Steve recommend bringing up a coupe key questions and phrases such as:
What’s your relationship like?
Are you happy?
Is it a safe environment?
There’s help out there.
I’m concerned about you.
I am happy to listen if you want to talk.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence or being abused at home, here’s a number to call.
“Then we can encourage suspected victims to seek help or refer them to resources, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline or local shelters and community support organizations,” says Steve.
If the law is successful in Illinois, says Kristie, it could extend to other states, or even other professions, such as bartending. Until then, she hopes it will help make a difference in the lives of the one in three women and one in seven men who will be victims of some form of violence by a domestic partner in their lifetime.
“When a client sits in your chair, it’s a safe place,” says Susan. “They get to come in and talk about anything, and they’re not judged for it. I really do think people confide in their hairdresser as much as they would, if not more than, a really good friend. So I think this is a great idea. It just goes to show…the power of hairdressers is incredible.”