In August of this year, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to pass a law mandating that hairdressers receive training to recognize signs of domestic abuse in their clients. Signed by Governor Bruce Rauner, this law will take effect on January 1st, 2017. Though this is the first legal action in the country focusing on mobilizing hairdressers against domestic abuse, it comes on the heels of the CUT IT OUT Program: Salons Against Domestic Abuse, established by the Professional Beauty Association.
The program began in the early 2000’s in Birmingham, Alabama, with the goal of training haircare professionals to recognize signs of abuse in their clients and safely refer them to the proper resources. In 2003, the program went national and has since trained hundreds of salons and shops in this process.
This new Illinois law is based around the same model as CUT IT OUT. Every two years haircare professionals must renew their licenses, and starting in 2017 this will include a seminar on recognizing signs of abuse such as “tender spots on the scalp that are unexplainable or bruising along the hairline” explained Brittney Delp, supervisor of the domestic violence unit at Family Resources Inc., a nonprofit based in Moline, IL. Though the law does not require hairdressers to report suspected abuse, they will be legally protected if they choose to do so.
This is especially helpful and important in identifying signs of abuse in children and young clients, as they are oftentimes unable to seek help on their own. Hairdressers are skilled listeners and are trained to create comfortable and safe environments for their clients, so children will be more likely to confide in them about what is happening to them. Lynn Surr, proprietor of the John Taylor Salon in Rock Island commented on this, stating that “We [hairdressers] are neutral. We’re not their best friend…or mother. So they will share things with us…The majority of us are women…and we’re all out to look out for one another.”
This law is an innovative and important step in the battle against child abuse, and Illinois lawmakers should be proud to be the first state in the nation to implement such a program. Hopefully, other states will take note and work to create something similar to help protect their children.