A woman’s relationship with her hair stylist can be very tight — and it’s not confined to an uncanny knowledge of the peculiarities of each strand of her hair. One talks about family, kids, work, even pets, in subdued, trustful tones. But an Illinois law that goes into effect this week could add a vital new layer to this dynamic.
Stylists, barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians, hair braiders and nail technicians throughout Illinois will now receive one hour of mandated abuse-prevention training as part of the licensing process. While they are not required to report suspected abuse, they may connect the victim to a plethora of resources.
Abusers often inflict damage on soft targets — in this case, parts of the body that are invisible to prying eyes. Whether applying color, shampooing or examining sections of hair during a cut, the stylist may touch or see a nasty bump. Sure, it can all be explained away. “I hit my head against the car door.” “Oh, that. It was a stupid accident.” Then again, years of reciprocal trust may induce the client to admit the ugly truth.
Hairstylists are famous for their listening ears. Illinois legislators, in their wisdom, are utilizing resources that already exist. Kristie Paskvan, founder of Chicago Says No More, says that beauty professionals are an ideal source to provide guidance to resources for abuse victims “because they can be more objective than family and friends.”
State Rep. Fran Hurley of Chicago, who backed the legislation, knows one salon owner who puts business cards for a local anti-domestic violence group in the bathroom. “You’d be amazed how many times she has to replace them,”Hurley says.
Many women view spending a few hours at the beauty salon as an opportunity to be pampered. Thanks to the Illinois legislature, coloring the gray or getting an updated look could do more that lift their spirits. It just might save their lives.
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