A new Illinois law going into effect at the new year is taking an innovative approach to combating domestic violence: It requires state beauty professionals to learn how to recognize signs of domestic abuse and sexual assault in their clients—and how to handle conversations about them.
Signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the training will be delivered to barbers, cosmetologists, aestheticians, hair braiders, and nail techs via an hour-long course—ultimately creating a force of 88,000 salon workers who are equipped to potentially help save clients' lives. The training will be grandfathered in: It will be a part of license regulations for new pros, and those already in the industry will have the hour added to their 14-hour course that's required biannually to re-certify their licenses.
Americans agreed at the beginning of 2016 that combating domestic violence was a national priority, and the beauty industry is an ingenious place to target it. Clients and salon workers often have close relationships: after all, how many of us have spilled our latest fight with our S.O. to stylists we see every eight weeks? Or told a nail tech about a squabble with our boyfriend that we didn't even mention to our friends?
"There's an openness, a freeness, a relationship that last years or decades between the client and the cosmetologist," Fran Hurley, the Illinois state representative who sponsored the bill, said. "They're in a position to see something that may or may not be right."
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But the law is careful not to exploit any relationships: It doesn't require stylists to report incidents to authorities. However, advocates are hopeful that it will give those who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence a place to turn—after all, many don't report incidents to the police.
The idea came to Hurley and State Senator Bill Cunningham from Chicago Says No More, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about domestic violence. The organization is also thinking about ways to get members of other service sectors, like bartenders, involved with the training in the future.