How Telling a Hairdresser About Abuse Can Help Some Women


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If you've ever had the same hairdresser or stylist for a long period of time, you know the kind of relationship that tends to develop there: It's like friendship, but with fewer strings, less history, and an instant kind of honesty. Many women feel comfortable sharing things with their hairdressers that they won't tell anyone else, and that thought spurred a new law in Illinois that requires salon workers to go through training on how to recognize signs of domestic abuse that their clients might be displaying.

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The law is set to go into effect in 2017, and it will set up hairstylists, nail technicians, and aestheticians with an hour-long course on domestic violence. They'll be taught not only how to spot signs of abuse and sexual assault, but also how to address it with potential survivors. They'll also be given a list of resources to which they can refer their clients, if they need to.

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What's really key, though, is that the law doesn't require anybody to report anything -- it's just intended to allow salon workers to become another resource for people experiencing abuse. It's embracing the already close relationship salon workers tend to have with their clients and turning that into a potential avenue of escape for survivors.

The fear with something like this is that as well-intentioned as it may be, it'll end up looking better on paper than it does in practice. Clients could end up feeling invaded, for example, or the salon staff could feel like they're being burdened with responsibility they didn't want or don't feel equipped to deal with.

But the way we see it, if the law helps even one woman, it's a success.

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It'll be more likely to help a lot of women if the training is thorough and accurate, though. An hour doesn't seem like a particularly long time, but it could be enough, depending on where the information is coming from. Hopefully, the state will have the foresight to connect salon workers with counselors and other experts who have experience helping women who need it.

The group that proposed the law, an organization that raises awareness about domestic violence called Chicago Says No More, says the law is the first of its kind in the country. If it's a success, it could become the blueprint for similar laws around the country.

If a woman is in an abusive relationship, a salon could be one of the few places she can go without being accompanied by an overbearing spouse. Even doctors offices aren't always an escape, but a salon is a place where certain women might be left alone regularly for long periods of time. 

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That's huge, so making that temporary escape into a path that could lead to a more permanent escape is doing an enormous service to abused women. No, it's not going to help everyone, and no, it's not going to solve the problem of domestic abuse. But it could help people get out of bad situations and stay safe, so for right now, it's hard to see this law as a bad thing.

 

If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic abuse, you can find help and support at DVIS.org, the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or by contacting your local women's shelter (domesticshelters.org).

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