Illinois Hairdressers Will Be Trained In Domestic Violence Support

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A new amendment to an Illinois law will turn the unique relationship between hairdressers and their customers into an opportunity for safe disclosures. Come January 2017, all hairstylists working in the state will be trained to recognize signs of domestic violence and provide support for survivors, reports The Independent.

The new legislation, which is an amendment to the Barber, Cosmetology, Hair Braiding, and Nail Technology Act of 1985, is based on the idea that survivors may be more inclined to share details of their abuse with their stylists, since their interactions are inherently intimate.

"When you’re a hairdresser, you're touching people first. I'll start touching your hair before I really even start talking to you. It’s really close. It’s one of the highest-touch industries, which creates a bond with your clients," hairdresser and survivor Jamie Feramisco told the Herald-Whig.

Salon owner Lynn Surr, who spoke with local radio station WQAD, said that, even though these relationships are very close, the clients may view their hairstylists as separate from their personal lives. This can actually encourage them to open up more: "We are neutral. We're not their best friend; we're not their spouse; we're not their child or mother, so they will share things with us."
This law might be the first of its kind in the U.S., but it's hardly the first time someone's noted that hair salons can be safe spaces for domestic violence survivors. The Cut It Out program has been training stylists across the country in domestic violence support techniques for over a decade, and law enforcement officials have pointed to salons as one of the few places female survivors may feel comfortable enough to open up about abuse at home.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that domestic violence is any kind of abusive behavior (physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional) between intimate partners. It doesn't always look the same for everyone, but it's almost always rooted in a need for control and power over another person. The effects of domestic violence can be psychological, physical, or even fatal.

According to the NCADV, one in three women and one in four men in the U.S. have experienced some form of physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. In the state of Illinois, nearly 65,800 intimate violence incidents were reported in 2014. And hopefully, hairstylists can make sure more of these incidents reach law enforcement and more survivors get help. Although the amended law won't require stylists to report what they're told, they'll be prepared to offer support and direct survivors to the right crisis centers or groups.

"The whole idea is to help hairdressers deal with disclosures," JJ Magliocco of the Illinois domestic violence charity Quanada told the Herald-Whig. "We are teaching them that they can make a difference. They don’t have to keep their mouth shut."

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.
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