The Hairstylist-Customer Bond Used to Fight Abuse

July 31, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015
Ingrid Dominguez teaches stylists how to help abused women. (Sharon Kagawa)
Ingrid Dominguez teaches stylists how to help abused women. (Sharon Kagawa)

NEW YORK—Realizing the strong bond hairstylists have with their customers, one New York woman is using this relationship as an avenue to help women in abusive relationships who have become isolated.

Ingrid Dominguez was in a beauty salon in the Inwood area of northern Manhattan, getting her hair done. She overheard another customer say she feared for her life and the lives of her children. Dominguez saw the concern of the people in the salon. The hairstylists could not tell the customer how or where to get help. A thought came to Dominguez that had been incubating in her mind. “It would be ideal to do training and have information available for these frightened women in the salon.”
Dominguez is the director of Child Welfare in the Inwood area. It was her assignment to provide crisis intervention services for the area. But, she was encountering a serious problem.

Dominguez found that domestic violence was common in the area but the protective services division of the city's Administration for Children Services (ACS) did not get many referrals to investigate domestic violence. When investigators went into the homes it was apparent that domestic violence was the underlying factor in many child welfare cases and it wasn't getting reported, she said.
Being in the beauty salon that day in Inwood made Dominguez realize that isolated women suffering from abusive relationships should "be in the right place at the right time.” And the right place is a beauty salon, which is where she decided to create the Crisis Awareness Intervention program.

Beginning in 2007, the Crisis Awareness Internation program's mission is “Teaching hairstylists how to approach the client in a way that is nonintrusive and not degrading,” said Dominguez.

It takes time to learn to identify different types of domestic abuse and violence and its different forms. The training, which is spread out over eight months, is done in the salon so the hairstylist doesn’t lose any business. The staff learn in Spanish, their first language.
One thing Dominguez stressed is, “That we are not trying to train hairstylists to be counselors. We just want to make them aware of the different forms of domestic violence, how to approach a survivor and how they can provide information without pushing it on the client. If [the victims] are not ready, they are not ready.”
The Crisis Awareness Intervention program also focuses on domestic abuse and violence. Hairstylists are trained to identify domestic abuse and provide information that will assist the victim to get help.

Since 2002, programs similar to Crisis Awareness Intervention, such as Cut It Out, have become available nationwide. Government agencies in many states recruit beauty salons to participate in such programs.

Another Person Touched

After attending a Cut It Out seminar and listening to victims of domestic abuse and violence two things happened to Donna Bartos.

First, Bartos realized that she was a victim in her early years of dating. A successful nonprofit fund raiser, she did not define her dating experiences as violence until she went to the seminar and realized that she had had similar experiences. Second, the Cut It Out seminar inspired Bartos to put together a national awareness, fund raising and empowerment event called Girls' Night Out.

Girls' Night Out celebrates survivors of domestic abuse. Each event provides information about shelters, prevention resources and education on how to recognize and respond to the signs of domestic abuse. Social fun and food is part of the event too.

Now Girls' Night Out is a nationwide event, which began in Arizona in 2006. Brooklyn, New York held a Girls' Night Out in May 2009 sponsored by the Empire Beauty School.