Hairdressers have always had a special connection with their clients. It’s clear that do more than hook your hair up—they can also serve as your friend, confidant and even part time therapist. Just think: How much does your stylist know about your personal life?
Well, a new Illinois law recognizes the power of that bond and believes that it can be helpful in identifying victims of domestic violence. According to the Chicago Tribune, a new measure signed by Governor Bruce Rauner will require barbers, cosmetologists, aestheticians, hair braiders and nail technicians to complete an hour-long course to help identify instances of domestic violence against their clients and how to handle it.
“There’s an openness, a freeness, a relationship that last years or decades between the client and the cosmetologist,” Illinois state Rep. Fran Hurley told The Tribune. “They’re in a position to see something that may or may not be right.”
This law makes Illinois the first state in the US to have such a mandate—and it goes beyond spotting bruises during a blow-out. Each appointment serves as an opportunity for the stylist to identify information about abusive behavior, especially when it is emotional, which can be more subtle than a black eye, the New York Times writes.
However, it doesn’t legally hold stylists responsible to notify the police when abuse is detected, it only encourages stylists to help victims be more aware of how dangerous their relationship is and provide them with certain resources to get help.
The new law also requires stylists to complete the course while applying for a new license, and then an additional hour is added to the 14 hours of continuing education required for a license renewal every two years, The Tribune noted. And there is no opting out of the training if anyone wants to renew their certification.
For advocates, this could be an effective way to help clients in need, but not everyone agrees with this added responsibility. Analie Papageorge, owner of the Steven Papageorge Salon and Beauty Academy in Evanston, Illinois, told The Tribune that this training puts enormous pressure on stylists, who did not sign up to be social workers or police.
“You could make or break somebody’s family,” she said. “It’s heavy on the heart.“
Despite the law’s pros and cons, this type of intervention could seriously impact African-American women not only given our unique relationship with our hairdressers, but our disproportionate gender violence rates and the severe outcomes of our abuse.
According to the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community (IDVAAC), nearly 30 percent of Black women have reported at least one instance of domestic violence in their lifetime. And while Black women, who comprised only 8 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 22 percent of intimate partner homicide victims in 2005. In addition: Among African-American women killed by their partner, almost half were killed while in the process of leaving the relationship.
Granted this initiative doesn’t address the fact that financial dependence is a huge factor for why Black women stay in abusive relationships—not because we are unaware that the abuse is problematic—nor will it overturn any stylist’s own victim-blaming views about abuse, but perhaps laws like this can be one more tool in the abusive prevention toolbox.
BEAUTIES: What do you think? Is this a good way to identify abused women?