With New Law, Illinois Stylists Join The Fight Against Domestic Violence

Jan 1, 2017
Originally published on January 2, 2017 9:59 am

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."

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The relationship between a hairdresser and his or her clients can be an intimate one. Sometimes the conversation gets personal. And some stylists are used to seeing signs that their clients have been victims of abuse. There's a new law in Illinois that recognizes that unique relationship, and it now requires hairstylists and nail technicians to go through training about domestic violence as part of their licensing. Here's NPR's Maggie Penman.

MAGGIE PENMAN, BYLINE: It's a classic scene. You see it in movies and on TV, women chatting with their hairstylist, talking about their love lives or problems at work just like they're talking to an old friend. This new Illinois law wants to use those intimate relationships to get victims of domestic violence help.

JOAN ROWAN: It is an intimate relationship, and it's a wonderful relationship.

PENMAN: Joan Rowan has been a hairstylist for decades. She owns two salons - one in Oak Lawn, Ill., and the other on the South Side of Chicago. She says she started putting pamphlets in the salon bathrooms with information and resources like the numbers for domestic violence hotlines.

ROWAN: I've had women - you know, when you're washing their head, they have lumps on their head, or you know, they ran into a door again. I've been a hairdresser for 41 years. One in three women have violence in their lives.

PENMAN: She's citing a statistic used by many domestic violence advocacy groups, including one called Chicago Says No More. This is the group that's designing the one-hour training for stylists. Kristie Paskvan is the founder of that organization. She says she knows an hour-long training won't make anyone an expert or a therapist. The aim is just to educate the stylists and give them the tools to refer clients to resources that can help.

KRISTIE PASKVAN: There's something like 88,000 salon professionals that will be trained in the next two years. That's 88,000 more individuals that'll be able to have conversations with family and friends and clients, and that raises awareness.

PENMAN: Salon professionals won't be required to intervene or held liable if they don't. Lawmakers hope to just get a little more information out there, even if it's just over a manicure. Maggie Penman, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.