There’s a new law in Tennessee that harnesses the unique position of beauty professionals to help identify victims of domestic abuse.
The new law, which was enforced on the first day of 2022, requires hairstylists and barbers to go through a free training program that will teach them how to look for signs that their clients might be suffering domestic violence, and where to send them for support.
Salons are often seen as places where people are more inclined to talk about their personal lives, and hairstylists in particular “have a unique position to help identify domestic violence and assist victims,” says Tennessee’s cosmetology board director.
“We’re like a therapist for our clients,” explains an experienced beautician with 20 years in the industry Chaka Jackson to News4 WSMV Nashville. “So, this would help us recognize signs. As far as physical or what a person may say and with that, it’ll help us guide that person as to what’s the next proper steps for that person to take who is in that type of situation.”
Though there are many kinds of signs to look out for, there are some, such as bruising or sudden/unusual hair loss, that would be more apparent to a hairdresser. Betsy Briggs, a stylist and small business owner, told the Pulitzer Center earlier in 2021 that she had seen a case of thinning hair that did not seem like alopecia, a medical term for onset balding.
“What I realized through the training is that I think her husband was pulling her hair from the back, pulling it out from the abuse,” she revealed.
The new law follows a successful initiative that was first launched in 2017 by Susanne Post, a veteran Nashville stylist and a survivor of abuse. Thanks to Post’s campaign and state lawmakers, commerce agency officials, and the state Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, legislation was created that makes the course obligatory for beauticians.
When the original bill was passed in July of last year, board executive director Roxana Gumucio responded in a statement, “Tennessee’s beauty professionals are caring, compassionate individuals who are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all their customers, but may not know how to respond when confronted with domestic violence.”
She also added that “most domestic violence victims will not report abuse to law enforcement, but they will tell someone with whom they have a long-standing relationship, such as a cosmetologist or barber.”
The free training is currently available through Barbicide, an international disinfectant maker that is popular amongst salons and barbershops. Upon completion, the participant is awarded a certificate.