In an effort to take advantage of the intimate relationships between stylists and their clients, a new law in Illinois will require salon professionals to receive training in domestic abuse-prevention as part of their licensing process.
The law, which goes into effect Sunday, aims to educate beauty professionals to recognize signs of abuse. But stylists won't be required to report violence, and are protected from any liability.
The legislation was introduced by state Rep. Fran Hurley, who told the Chicago Tribune, "There's an openness, a freeness, a relationship that last years or decades between the client and the cosmetologist. They're in a position to see something that may or may not be right."
Joan Rowan is a hair stylist who owns two salons — one on the South Side of Chicago, and the other in Oak Lawn, Ill. She says that for many years now she's been providing training for her own staff about what to do if they think someone is in trouble.
Rowan says that clients do sometimes talk to her about what is going on in their lives. "And sometimes they tell you so much they never come back again, because they're afraid, or they're embarrassed, they don't know what to do."
"I've had women, you know, when you're washing their hair, they have bumps on their head, you know, they 'ran into a door again,' " Rowan says. "I've been a hairdresser for 41 years. One in three women have violence in their lives. So yes, I have talked to women."
The training that the stylists will receive is an hourlong "awareness and education" program called Listen. Support. Connect. It was designed by Chicago Says No More, a coalition of domestic violence advocacy groups, in partnership with Cosmetologists Chicago.
Kristie Paskvan, the founder of Chicago Says No More, says she knows that an hourlong training isn't going to make anyone an expert. "We're not asking the salon professionals to intervene. We're just asking them to have the tools in case the clients ask for information," she says.
"There's something like 88,000 salon professionals that will be trained in the next two years," Paskvan says. "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."