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Beauty Professionals Against Domestic Violence

April 3rd 2017
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On January 1, 2017, Illinois became the first US State to incorporate domestic violence awareness courses as part of beauty professionals’ training – people who often hold a special place in the lives of their clients. Stylists, colorists, manicurists and barbers will now be able to better help their clients who are victims of violence at home.

Involving Beauty Professionals

“My wife, who works in a styling salon, has often told me about her concerns when working with clients who are obviously victims of serious abuse from their spouse. Being very young herself, she didn’t know what to do to help them,” said Bill Cunningham, Senator for Illinois, who was already well aware of the issue when the Chicago Says No More association reached out to him for assistance in getting beauty professionals the right tools to fight against domestic violence.

Photo credits: @chicagosaysnomore

In the USA, according to a 2010 report from the government’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, it’s estimated that one in three women and one in four men are, or will be at some point during the course of their lives, the victim of domestic violence. In Illinois, more than 65,000 cases were reported to the police in 2014. The damage caused is often invisible, even more so when it is psychological rather than physical. Kristie Paskvan, spokesperson for Chicago Says No More, has come across so many striking examples of people in danger, including one woman unexpectedly asking her stylist to cut her hair extremely short: “It turned out that was the only thing she had control over.”

Giving Professionals The Best Tools

Beauty salons are often places where people talk about their problems. As Karon Gordon from the manicure parlor J. Gordon Designs told us: “We often get very close to our clients. We find out when things aren’t going well in their lives because they feel safe enough to talk in the neutral environmental of a beauty salon.” Having recognized this unique relationship, Illinois has voted for a law that will allow beauty professionals to get proper training on different factors involved in domestic violence. To be able to renew their professional license, they now need to partake in a training program that will help them recognize the telltale signs of domestic violence and guide victims towards relevant social aid bodies.

Photo credits: PamelaJoeMcFarlane

The initiative has been welcomed enthusiastically. Indeed in most salons beauty professionals often feel they want to be more prepared to help clients in danger. Some professionals, however, are a little less at ease with this new responsibility. Analie Papageorge from the Steven Papageorge Salon and Beauty Academy shared her hesitation with the Chicago Tribune: “You have the power to break up a family. That’s a very heavy responsibility.”

In order to soften any potential doubts or difficulties, Cosmetologists Chicago will be in charge of training programs. Their goal is to make it absolutely clear that beauty professionals are not expected to act like psychologists or social workers: “Helping can be as simple as providing a phone number to somebody who asks for it,” Bill Cunningham confirmed. The first training session took place in March. Anti-domestic violence organizations are now working to have this initiative spread across the rest of the USA.

Photo credits: @chicagosaysnomore