State enlists hair stylists in domestic violence fight
BOISE – Women sometimes tell their hair stylists things they wouldn’t tell anyone else.
Now a new state program will provide domestic violence training and materials to Idaho’s cosmetologists, so they can spot signs of abuse and help their clients.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced the new program, dubbed “Cut Out Domestic Violence,” at a news conference Wednesday along with nearly a dozen representatives of domestic violence groups, cosmetologists and cosmetology schools.
“I felt like this was an opportunity to do something about a very serious problem, at a very low cost,” Wasden said. “We could use this great tool to identify the victims of domestic violence and help them.”
Christine Stutzke, chair of the Idaho Board of Cosmetology and the owner of Designer One Hair Fashions in Post Falls, said stylists notice when their regular customers show up with bruises and other signs of abuse.
“I’ve been in this profession for 34 years,” she said. “I cannot tell you the number of people who come in my salon, sit in my chair at my station, and confide in me things that horrify me.”
Stutzke said the new program will allow cosmetologists to help, at what officials are calling “a new point of intervention.” Materials about domestic violence and where to get help also will be distributed in salon waiting areas.
“I really like the idea of having fliers in our salons, so people can just discreetly pick them up,” Stutzke said.
Wasden said he modeled Idaho’s program after one started by Florida’s attorney general. Virginia’s attorney general also has launched a similar program, and a private group that started in Alabama is promoting the idea nationwide with the slogan, “Cut it out.”
Wasden said, “Salon professionals often see their clients regularly, month after month, year after year. … Salon professionals are experienced listeners, and it is not uncommon for women who are experiencing abuse to confide in them.”
He added, “In addition, the salon may be one of the few places a domestic violence victim can go without the abuser.”
Idaho State Police statistics show domestic violence is on the increase, rising from a rate of 43 per 1,000 residents in 2000 to 48 per 1,000 in 2003. Idaho victims averaged 15 abusive episodes in the past year, 75 percent of victims were female, and children were present in nearly half of the state’s domestic violence incidents.
“You don’t need me to tell you that this is a serious problem,” Wasden said. “The numbers speak for themselves.”
Diane Blumel, executive director of the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance, added, “The odds are that one in four people are primary or secondary victims of domestic violence. Those are some pretty staggering odds.”
After hearing about the Florida and Virginia efforts, Wasden proposed the new program to the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance last spring, and got an enthusiastic response.
Twenty-four training seminars for hair-care and salon professionals have been scheduled in Idaho as part of the program. Sessions already have been held in Bonners Ferry, Cascade, Idaho Falls and Malad. Plus, domestic violence training is being added to the curriculum for new cosmetologists who are trained in Idaho, in cooperation with the Idaho Cosmetology Schools Association.
Nancy Rowland, president of the association, said, “No one works closer to people.” Cosmetologists, she said, are “licensed to touch.”
The program won’t make any individual stylist or salon take on responsibility for victims’ plights, she said. What it will do, she said, is “give them the tools to recognize the signs … (and) help them access resources throughout the state of Idaho.”
Stutzke said the state Board of Cosmetology plans to include information about the program in the license renewal notices it sends to 8,000 licensed cosmetologists in the state.
She said stylists sometimes notice injuries on the scalp that aren’t apparent to others, and that abusers may think will go unnoticed. And sometimes that evidence is backed by the stories salon workers hear while giving a shampoo, haircut or manicure.
Millie Hurbold, president of the Idaho Cosmetology Association, said, “We get told things about their situation at home and in other areas that they don’t tell anyone.”
No longer do cosmetologists need to feel helpless in such situations.
“With a program like this in place, we really know where to send them to get help,” Stutzke said.