Illinois has become the first state to pass a law requiring that licensed hairdressers receive training to recognize in their clients any evidence of domestic and sexual violence, according to a local news channel, WQAD. The law, which was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner in August and takes effect on Jan. 1, 2017, is unprecedented in the salon industry.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.” The physical signs of such abuse — which often go unnoticed — can be more easily caught by vigilant hairdressers, who inspect and touch their clients’ heads as they work. The new law sets stylists up as first responders for abuse, should they choose to assume this role.
According to WQAD, hairdressers will take a one-hour class every two years, when they get their license renewed, which will include instruction on how to identify “tender spots on the scalp that are unexplainable or bruising along the hairline” as they wash hair, massage scalps, and cut, color, and style hair, according to Brittney Delp, supervisor of the Illinois domestic violence services at the nonprofit Family Resources, Inc., in Moline, Ill.
“I think it’s a really good first step,” Delp said. “One of the biggest things is having someone that supports you and believes you and senses that something’s going on.”
Even before the law was passed, the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) launched the Cut It Out campaign to promote the idea of “mobilizing salon professionals and others to fight the epidemic of domestic abuse in communities across the U.S.” It suggested that building awareness among salon professionals could help them “recognize warning signs and safely refer clients, colleagues, friends and family to local resources.”
The site notes that “research shows that most battered women never call the police or go to a shelter. However, they do usually talk about the abuse with someone they trust. … With proper training on how to recognize the signs of abuse and safely refer victims to help, salon professionals can become invaluable and influential community partners in the fight against domestic abuse.”
WQAB and the PBA point out that victims of abuse may be more comfortable confiding in a hairdresser about their their situation, “because salon professionals are skilled and experienced listeners who are personally interested in those around them.” The site also points out that salons are often one of the only places where victims are alone, without their abusers.
“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,” Lynn Surr, owner of John Taylor Salon in Rock Island, Ill., said in an interview with the news station. “The majority of us [clients and stylists] are women, and I think we’re all sisters in a way, and we’re all out to look out for one another.” That said, the new law does not require that hairdressers report signs of assault. If they choose to report abuse, however, they are legally protected, according to WQAD.
Now, hairdressers in Illinois have the tools to make their clients look and feel great — and potentially save their lives in the process.