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By Kastalia Medrano
November 30, 2016

Beginning January 1, 2017, the state of Illinois will begin training all hairdressers to respond to domestic violence against their clients. In accordance with a new state legislation amendment – the first of its kind – Illinois is essentially deputizing beauty service-industry professionals to combat violence against women.

Hairdressers won’t be legally responsible for reporting abuse, but they will be trained to spot warning signs, offer verbal support and refer clients to crisis groups. The amendment is supported by the Professional Beauty Association, which has already been running a similar program called Cut It Out.

“The salon is a safe place to go. People tell their stylists things they don’t even tell their family or friends,” PBA Director of Charitable Programs Rachel Molepske told the Illinois-based Herald Whig last week. “We have gotten testimonials from people that said this program saved them. I’m glad more will be trained to spot the signs and symptoms of domestic violence and to respond appropriately.”

For many women, a hair salon might be the only all- or predominately female setting they ever visit, which can be conducive to a feeling of comfort and security. A hairdresser might spend several consecutive hours talking to a client one-on-one in a friendly environment, a situation that doesn’t often naturally arise elsewhere. Since salons already resemble safe spaces for so many women, this legislation – an amendment to the Barber, Cosmetology, Hair Braiding and Nail Technology Act of 1985

– is merely capitalizing on what’s already there, training hairdressers to be not just confidantes, butpotentially life-saving resources. While the training will be completed with primarily women in mind,all genders can benefit from a sanctuary where beauty professionals are also trained to offer domestic violence support.

“What they tell you in school is, when you’re a hair dresser, you’re touching people first. I’ll start touching your hair before I really even start talking to you,” hairstylist Jamie Feramisco told the Whig. “It’s really close. It’s one of the highest-touch industries, which creates a bond with your clients.”

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