The next time you need someone to talk to about a domestic violence issue, you may want to consider your hairstylist.
"Women talk to their beauticians about 'personal stuff' anyway so it only makes sense to have them trained to talk about domestic violence stuff, too," said 42-year-old Garfield Park resident Cinnamon Brown.
"I talk to my beautician every week about stuff going on in my life from relationships, my job and even my sex life," the West Side resident said. "And she gives me good advice every time."
A new state law that took effect on Jan. 1 requires haircare professionals — such as barbers, beauticians, aestheticians, hair braiders, and nail technicians — to complete a free, one-hour domestic violence course before their state license is issued or renewed.
The new law does not make hairdressers or cosmetologists submit mandated reports; rather, it seeks to provide resources and tools to those in the field to pass along to their clients if and when they're needed. And hairstylists cannot be held liable either for any advice they provide to customers.
The haircare professionals and patrons in Austin who were interviewed about the law said it's a good idea for them to be educated about a rising problem in the black community; but not all of them welcomed the legislation.
Since 1992, Michael Henderson, a barber at Divine Stylez Hair Studio, 5457 W. Madison St., said he has counseled clients from divorce to raising their kids.
"We deal with a bunch of issues and domestic is one of them. That's why I have no problem with the new law. I think it's great," said Henderson. "Some of your customers become friends after time and friends help one another. The way I see it barbers are 'community doctors' anyway and should be prepared to discuss life issues with customers."
However, one barber, Thomas Tone, who has been cutting hair for 14 years, said he is opposed to the new mandate.
"I don't think it's a good thing. Everybody is involved in a domestic situation at some point," said Tone, a barber at TJ's Barber and Beauty Salon in Austin. "These are my people and I'm going to talk to them about their problems regardless, so there's no need for the class."
In 2015, the last year data was available, there were 61,334 domestic violence offenses reported in Cook County, and 103,546 domestic violence offenses reported in Illinois, nearly 100,000 more cases than were reported the year before, according to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.
The new law will affect 88,000 haircare professionals over the next two years, according to Kristie Paskvan, founder of the nonprofit Chicago Say No More, which worked with state Rep. Fran Hurley (35th) to craft the bill Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law last August.
The bill amends the Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding and Nail Technology Act of 1985 and will be enforced by the state's Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
The first opportunity for hairstylists to take the course is at the America's Beauty Show from March 25 to March 27 at McCormick Place.
"But for those that do not attend we will be announcing other locations where the course will be offered, which may include training sessions at hair salons," said Paskvan. "Keep in mind that there are different types of abuse besides physical people need to know. There's verbal and financial abuse as well."
One Austin resident, Angelique Williams, 42, said the state should not mandate hairstylists to be trained counselors.
"I think the training is a good thing but I also think it should be on a voluntary basis," said Williams. "You have to remember not everyone opens up about their personal life and I know being in an abusive relationship can be embarrassing and make a person feel too ashamed to tell anyone."
National statistics support Williams's notion that abuse victims, especially women, choose to keep the matter private. Each year, more than 4.7 million women are physically abused by a partner, but only 34 percent seek medical treatment and only 25 percent report the incident to police, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Vernell Davis, a veteran hairstylist, said he's unsure if the course will make a difference in advice he gives clients.
"I've been doing hair for 36 years and I have seen it all and heard it all from my clients," said Davis. "I'm not sure if a course will make a difference in how we talk to our clients about their problems. Then again, I don't think it will hurt us to take a course on domestic violence."
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