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Illinois Is Empowering Hairstylists to End Domestic Violence

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

More than 10 million men and women in the United States are victims of domestic violence every year, almost 20 people every minute. Starting January 1, the state of Illinois will implement a unique approach to ending domestic violence in the state.

A new law, the first of its kind in the country, will require hairstylists to receive training on how to spot domestic violence and support victims. The law, which is an amendment to the Barber, Cosmetology, Hair Braiding and Nail Technology Act of 1985, does not make hairstylists mandatory reporters but will provide them with the education and tools necessary to notice the signs of domestic violence.

While the legislation is brand new, the idea of empowering hairdressers to prevent domestic violence has already been established. Efforts like the Professional Beauty Association’s (PBA) Cut It Out program were created to increase awareness of intimate partner violence among salon professionals and to help them be better resources to clients being victimized.The amendment requires anyone working toward a license as a barber, cosmetologist, esthetician, hair braider or nail technician to partake in an hour long class on not only domestic violence but also sexual assault.

One hour certainly doesn’t make someone an expert on intimate partner violence, but it’s definitely an important step toward bringing awareness front and center in people’s minds. An additional class will be required every two years for stylists to renew their license.

No one expects stylists to act as therapists or to directly intervene. This step is about providing another avenue for people to get critical, life-saving information and to make more people aware of the warning signs for domestic violence. It’s about empowering everyday people, not only trained professionals, to act as allies and connect victims to resources they might not otherwise know.

Other professions could certainly benefit from such training, but requiring the course for stylists in particular makes a lot of sense.

“The salon is a safe place to go,” Rachel Molepske, PBA’s director of charitable programs, told the Herald-Whig. “People tell their stylists things they don’t even tell their family or friends.”

People often develop relationships with their hairstylists, and other beauty professionals, over time. The nature of a stylist/client relationship requires some level of trust and often people return to the same stylist for months or even years. This kind of interaction puts stylists in a unique position to help and provide information.

Of course, it could be even better if this kind of legislation spread to other professions as well. Even if I don’t have the same relationship with, say, my mechanic as I do with my stylist, wouldn’t it be great if people of all professions were trained to recognize domestic violence? Or to know that whether you’re ordering a latte or getting your teeth cleaned, everyone you’re interacting with could provide you with life-saving resources?

Sure, it sounds like a fantasy world. But this legislation could be one tiny step toward building a culture that recognizes, believes and supports victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Photo Credit: Mainstream