Editor’s Note: A list of resources for domestic violence victims follows this article.
The relationship between a hairstylist and a client can be far more than simply somebody to cut and shape hair, which is why Tennessee is the latest state to require cosmetologists to complete training on how to recognize and respond to signs of domestic abuse.
“The relationship that beauty professionals have with their clients is very special,” said Susanne Post, a salon owner and survivor of domestic abuse who worked with the local YWCA to bring the idea of such a requirement to legislators. “We hear everything and so being able to be equipped with resources that could potentially save lives or potentially lead someone toward the right counselor or the right helper is so important.”
Under the law that went into effect on January 1, beauty professionals must complete up to an hour of training on how to recognize and respond to signs of domestic violence, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance said in a news release. The law does not require mandatory reporting.
“[Cosmetologists] have developed a close relationship, kind of like a counselor in some ways with their clients,” said state Rep. Sam Whitson, a co-sponsor of the legislation.
He described the beauty professionals as “another set of eyes” who could possibly save a life. “We know it’s a problem and we’ve just looked at this as one step in addressing it and protecting the individual.”
The Tennessee initiative is the latest in a series of state laws, including in Arkansas, Illinois and Washington, that enlist cosmetologists to complete training on how to identify signs of domestic abuse.
“Working with barbers and stylists is a great idea,” said Kiersten Stewart, the director of public policy and advocacy for Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit organization that works to end domestic and sexual violence. “Victims of domestic violence often reach out to people they know first. They’re far more likely to talk to a trusted friend or a community member or family member before they might ever go to law enforcement.”
Each year, over 12 million women and men are victims of intimate partner violence in the US, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
And domestic violence hotlines receive more than 20,000 calls on a typical day, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Cases also rose during pandemic lockdowns, according to the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice.
In an analysis of data from multiple cities, the NCCCJ reported that incidents increased 8.1% after the imposition of lockdowns orders in 2020.
In a separate report, the commission reported a 9.7% increase in domestic violence calls during March and April of 2020.
Currently, a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act – federal legislation aimed to combat domestic violence – is stalled in the Senate but a group of bipartisan senators said last month they will introduce legislation in the next few weeks.
Resources for victims of domestic violence
National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
Available 24/7. Can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through online chat tool.
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
Provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Available 24/7. Also available through online chat tool.
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Available 24/7 in 170 different languages.
Office on Women’s Health Helpline 1-800-994-9662
A resource provided by the US Department of Health & Human Services.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Susanne Post's first name.