The XX Factor

All Illinois Hairstylists Will Be Trained to Spot Domestic Abuse

Clients often feel more comfortable talking to a beautician than a cop.

Beginning in 2017, Illinois hairstylists and nail technicians will have to be trained in spotting signs of abuse among their clients.

A new law that goes into effect in the new year will require the state’s 88,000 licensed beauty workers (a group that also includes barbers, cosmetologists, and hair braiders) to undergo an hour-long training in recognizing and responding to signs of domestic violence. Since many hairdressers and other beauty professionals have open, chatty relationships with their clients, advocates believe that survivors of abuse might be more likely to open up to their stylist than to contact law enforcement officials.

Salon workers won’t be obligated to report suspicions of domestic violence, but they’ll be better prepared to listen and offer a list of resources. The law, an amendment to the Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding, and Nail Technology Act of 1985, was initially proposed by Chicago Says No More, a domestic abuse advocacy group. The group may eventually expand its efforts to include other service workers, like bartenders, in mandatory training.

State Senator Bill Cunningham, one of the amendment’s sponsors, told the New York Times that his wife heard women’s stories of domestic assault when she worked as a hair stylist. “She told me stories about her clients providing details about terrible incidents,” he said. “She offered a sympathetic ear. She was young at the time and did not know how to get them help.”

Advocates hope that the new law will also communicate to survivors of abuse that they can reach out to their trusted cosmetologists or barbers for help with no pressure to go to the police. According to the Chicago Tribune, reports of domestic violence in Illinois rose nearly four percent from 2014 to 2015.