What to Expect at a Domestic Violence Awareness Program for Salon Pros

Hairdressers and other salon pros are known for their close connections to clients—they’re often both service provider and friend. Nearly to a fault, salon professionals care about their clients. State legislatures are beginning to use this unique relationship to address domestic violence.

Although currently Illinois is the only state that requires salon professionals to take a one-hour domestic abuse course in order to renew their licenses, 14 states have similar laws in the works and all salon pros could benefit from the training. Cosmetologists Chicago (CC) had input into writing the Illinois law so that it protects hairdressers from liability, and then CC partnered with Chicago Says No More to develop a 60-minute Domestic Violence Awareness workshop so that salon pros could easily fulfill the new licensure requirement.

When CC offered the training in partnership during America’s Beauty Show 2017 (ABS), Healthy Hairdresser was there. The course was hosted by two Chicago Says No More representatives, who narrated a PowerPoint, presented a video and wrapped up the course with 10 minutes of audience questions.

Quick facts:

  • The Illinois Cosmetology Renewal License Domestic Violence law (PA99-0766) took effect on January 1, 2017.
  • The course is required for instructors renewing their Illinois licenses on or after September 2018 and for all other professionals renewing their Illinois licenses on or after September 2019.
  • The workshop carries a simple message: “Listen. Support. Connect.”

According to U.S. findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey published in 2000:

  • 4.8 million women each year experience physical assaults and rapes by an intimate partner.
  • 2.9 million men each year experience physical assaults by an intimate partner.
  • 2 of 3 women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, or stalked since age 18 were victimized by an intimate partner or a date.
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men experience an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives.
  • More than half of all rapes of females occur before age 18; of these, 22% occur before age 12.

According to the information provided at the workshop, 2 of every 3 incidents of sexual assault go unreported. That’s where salon professionals can help. This training encourages salon professionals to provide resources, such as posting a hotline number in your restroom and offering a list of local rape crisis and domestic violence agencies.

The training emphasizes that salon professionals are advised not to initiate any conversation about domestic abuse but, rather, to respond in a helpful way if the client introduces the topic. Even if you see physical evidence on a client, the most you should say is something like, “Everything okay with you?” That may encourage the client to open up or it may even trigger crying.

With a long-time client, watch for any behavioral changes over time. Understand that abuse can have patterns of increasing and decreasing. Observe any fearful demeanor in clients.

When someone opens up to you about domestic violence, you should:

  • Listen compassionately.
  • Provide your insight.
  • Share any “best practices” you’ve researched.
  • Make the client feel safe.
  • Give victims confidence to make changes in their lives.
  • Show respect for their situation.
  • Keep their information confidential.
  • Encourage clients to reach out for support from their own support networks—perhaps family, friends, YMCA, church, school or the workplace.
  • Ask clients if they are in immediate danger; offer a place to make a private call.
  • Thank the client for being courageous.
  • Become a champion for changing the culture of sexual violence.

What are you advised to say?

  • “I believe you.”
  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “I’m sorry this happened.”
  • “There are options.”
  • “You are not alone.”

Do not call 911. That may not be safest route for the victim. Also do not:

  • Blame a victim.
  • Ask what the victim did to make the abuser so mad.
  • Ask victims whether they were drinking, what they were wearing or other questions that can be received as blaming the victim.
  • Interrupt the victim’s account of what happened.
  • Give advice about what to do.
  • Share your own personal story of abuse—or, if you feel that will help, wait until the victim has finished telling the story.
  • Try to fix the situation.

It can take years and many starts and stops before someone leaves an abuser. Every person’s story is unique. Reasons people do not seek help include:

  • Society’s tolerance for violence.
  • Fear of the abuser.
  • Feeling traumatized.
  • A sense of shame, guilt, betrayal or denial.
  • Concerns about being blamed, not being believed or confidentiality.
  • Cultural or religious beliefs.
  • Economic dependence on the abuser.
  • Care for children or losing custody.
  • Immigration status.
  • Lack of social support or knowledge about the law and victims’ rights.

The video shown during the course was sponsored by Verizon and showed interviews of adults who, as children, had witnessed a parent’s abuse and/or grew up impacted by that abuse. It included the Illinois “call for hope” number: 877-863-6338.

Don’t forget to take care of you! Hearing a victim’s story can be emotionally draining. The workshop listed the ABCs of self-care: Awareness, Balance, Connection.

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