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Illinois Hairstylist Joins Effort to Save Lives, End Domestic Violence


Illinois is taking advantage of the trusted relationship between hairstylist and their clients to help prevent domestic violence. 

Stylists, barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians, hair braiders and nail technicians in Illinois will receive an hour of mandated abuse-prevention training as part of their licensing process.

It's all part of a new state law. It doesn't require them to report any violence but instead will provide them with resources and information to share with clients. 

The measure, which will take effect on Sunday, is the first of its kind in the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Vi Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Cosmetologists Chicago said hairstylists are well positioned to notice signs of abuse. 

Abusers "tend to try to find places where it could be an accident or it's not as visible," Nelson said. "They may hit them in the back of the head, and there's a bruise or a bump. The hairdresser is touching you and can see things that cannot be visible to the casual observer."

Clients and stylists also often develop lasting relationships.

"We get very close with our clients, even so far to say we love our clients," Karen Gordon, who owns J. Gordon Designs salon in Chicago, said. "You know people through life's ups and downs. When people come into a safe environment like a beauty salon, they tend to open up."

State Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Illinois, supported the measure because his wife, a former hairstylist, had customers who were victims of domestic violence. 

She "had a difficult time dealing with these issues when they came up. She wasn't sure what to tell her clients," Cunningham said. 

The main goal of the new law is to connect victims with resources from a trusted source. 

"The main goal is to get victims of domestic violence professional help if they want it," Cunningham said. "It could be as simple as providing their client with a phone number. In maybe more extreme cases it could be putting their client in touch with a shelter."

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