A new law passed in Illinois requires stylists to undergo a one hour training session that teaches them to be aware of the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse, and ways to address it.
The choice of stylist for this domestic violence legislation may seem odd, but Latisha O’Donoghue, a cosmetologist at All Dolled Up Salon in Desoto, Illinois gets it.
“We build such a close relationship with our clients. They feel comfortable and open with us, so they pretty much tell us anything. In a lot of ways we can sometimes feel more like their psychologist or a counselor,” she says.
The training of stylists in Illinois would position nearly 100 thousand people to understand the signs and symptoms of domestic violence and the ways to assist people going through this experience.
“That’s 88,000 more individuals that will be able to have conversations with family and friends and clients, and that raises awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault,” says Kristie Paskvan, founder of Chicago Says No More, the coalition against domestic violence who created the hour long training program.
The training program will not require stylists to intervene or report authorities. However, the bill will equip stylists with the tools they need to handle the information and security pertaining to domestic violence clients they may come across. Still, a few salon owners are not comfortable with the pressure this puts on their stylists:
“You could make or break somebody’s family,” says Analie Papgeorge, a salon owner based in Evanston Illinois. Other salon owners have described similar concerns, also noting that the relationship between stylists and clients have evolved over the past decade and isn’t as intimate as it was before the time of home-care products.
But O’Donoghue, along with many other cosmetologists, are of the camp that this bill is going to be extremely useful to the industry,
“I believe that this training we will be receiving on domestic abuse would help so many of us. Especially those who are maybe new to the industry. Cosmetologists are already finding out the information, this will just give us the tools to know what to do with it.”
The bill comes at a time of severe financial instability for Illinois, and offers a unique positioning to combat domestic violence under its given circumstances.
The state goes into the 2017 with no budget, and has been operating without one for the past 18 months. Research in the area of domestic violence has shown that financial turbulence, such as the one caused by the recession, increases cases of domestic violence. In 2015, Illinois had over 103,000 cases of domestic violence offenses, including 49 domestic-violence related deaths, which include three children. According to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, these numbers are higher than previous years.
The bill’s introduction last year was met with strong support of state representatives. State Senator Bill Cunningham, says he was swayed by his wife – a former hair stylist who frequently found her customers confiding in her about the incidents they experienced.
“She had a difficult time dealing with these issues when they came up, She wasn’t sure what to tell her clients,” said Cunningham.
State representative Terri Bryant voted in favor of the bill in part because she recognizes the unique and intimate dynamic of stylists and their customers. Stylists work in settings where women let their physical guards down. Because of this client vulnerability, trust is an important component between clients and their cosmetologists, and can lead to deeper and more personal conversations.
Further, stylists are often able to see physical scars and bruises left by domestic violence. Because of this, Bryant believes it is important for stylists to be trained to handle such matters:
“This bill will enable those who have personal, private and volatile information to deal with it sensitively and appropriately,” Bryant says.