CHICAGO—An Illinois law that took effect on Jan. 1 aims to take advantage of the trusted relationship between hairstylists and their clients to 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 the licensing process. The law does not require them to report any violence, and it shelters them from any liability.
Instead, the training provides beauty professionals with information about local help and resources they can share with clients. The Illinois measure appears to be the first of its kind in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Hairstylists are well situated to notice signs of abuse, said Vi Nelson, spokeswoman for the industry group Cosmetologists Chicago.
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 often develop yearslong relationships, said Karen Gordon, who owns J. Gordon Designs salon in Chicago.
“We get very close with our clients, even so far to say we love our clients,” she 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 supported the measure, in part, because his wife is a former hairstylist whose customers frequently shared incidents of domestic violence.