Those who work in salons are in a unique position to see signs of relationship abuse. Now a new law in Illinois requires that all salon professionals (hair stylists, manicurists, etc.) receive training on sexual assault and domestic violence so they’re better equipped to respond to their clients.
YWCA Evanston/North Shore is a certified provider of this training, and according to Wendy Dickson, director of domestic violence training and prevention, the requests from salons are pouring in. We asked Wendy to describe what training is like and why it matters.
Can you give us background on the new law?
This law took effect on January 1, 2019. Now, in order to renew their licenses, all salon professionals must complete this training. They renew their licenses every other September so as September gets closer, we’re getting lots of interest.
Why have salon professionals been singled out for this?
People share things with their stylists. Also, stylists are physically close to their clients. They would be able to see and feel bumps or bruises or hair pulled out.
How do salon professionals know to reach out to the YWCA for this training?
We are on a list of certified trainers provided by the state and it’s on our website: www.ywca-ens.org/salontraining
How many professionals have you trained so far?
We’ve only been doing this since April and so far, we’ve trained 500 people. And we have a training with Great Clips coming up; we’ll train 200 stylists at that session.
Talk about the training itself.
If there is a big group of people, like 15 or more, we do the training on-site at the salon that requests it. We also hold trainings for individuals here at the YWCA. It’s a one-hour training session.
Are salon professionals enthusiastic about it?
At first, since this is a requirement for licensure, they’re not thrilled. And often it’s on a Monday, which tends to be their day off. But once we start engaging them, the room changes. We don’t lecture; we ask questions.
Can you describe what happens?
They open up and say they’ve had clients who’ve confided in them. But we make it clear we’re not asking them to be detectives or psychologists. We’re just equipping them with knowledge and resources in case a client asks for information.
Do they know a lot about domestic violence?
Like a lot of people, they think it’s only about physical abuse.
What do they find eye-opening?
When we talk about how abuse involves power and control, almost all of them have encountered that, like a man who stands next to the stylist and tells the stylist how to make his partner look. They say that’s common, so it’s an epiphany when they realize this can be connected to domestic abuse.
What kind of information do you share as part of the training?
We talk about the importance of listening to the client’s story and suspending judgment, and how it takes someone an average of nine times before she leaves her abuser – so you can’t just tell someone to get out of the relationship.
When the training is over, they get information cards that have the YWCA’s contact information and the state’s domestic violence hotline number, too.
What else do you emphasize?
We tell the stylists to think of their own safety. They never want to leave a trail that leads back to them. We remind them not to let clients use their phones or their salon’s phone. This is why it’s helpful to give them the list of resources that they can share with their clients.
We’re not asking them to call the police and intervene. We remind them, “Don’t do anything differently; just have the resources.”
What kind of feedback do you get after the training?
The feedback is really good! Many will say, “I really didn’t want to come but I’m so glad I did.”
How do you feel about this training?
Training for salon professionals is an opportunity for us to reach a whole new group of people with information and resources. But it also reminds me that everyone – not just salon professionals – could use this training. This is information that everyone needs to know.