Tennessee beauty salon staff, barbers to be trained in spotting signs of domestic abuse

Employees and staff at beauty salons in Tennessee will be trained to spot signs of domestic abuse thanks to a new law that takes effect on New Year’s Day.

The law, passed over the summer, requires barbers and hairstylists to undergo training that is designed to help spot clients who are potential victims of domestic violence as well as where to send them to find help.

Chaka Jackson, Tennessee’s cosmetology board director who has been in the stylist business for two decades, told WSMV in Nashville that barber and salon chairs are places where many people tend to open up about personal lives and other issues, giving hair professionals “a unique position to help identify domestic violence and assist victims.”

“We’re like a therapist for our clients,” Jackson said. “So, this would help us recognize signs. As far as physical or what a person may say and with that, it’ll help us guide that person as to what’s the next proper steps for that person to take who is in that type of situation.”

The signs of abuse can vary, experts say, but many of them can be spotted by stylists and barbers, including sudden, unusual hair loss and bruising.

For example, the New York Post noted, Betsy Briggs Cathcart told the Pulitzer Center last year that she had recently seen a client who had unexplained hair thinning that did not appear to be caused by a medical condition known as alopecia.

“What I realized through the training is that I think her husband was pulling her hair from the back, pulling it out from the abuse,” Briggs said.

The law took effect on Saturday after it was first pushed in 2017 by Susanne Post, a veteran stylist and survivor of domestic abuse. Post worked on the legislation with the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee, operator of the largest regional women’s emergency shelter and a site for anti-domestic violence education for 40 years.

Subsequently, the bill progressed through the state legislature with the help of the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, commerce agency officials, and lawmakers, The Post reported.

“Tennessee’s beauty professionals are caring, compassionate individuals who are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all their customers, but may not know how to respond when confronted with domestic violence,” board executive director Roxana Gumucio noted in a statement on July 27, the date the measure passed.

“Most domestic violence victims will not report abuse to law enforcement, but they will tell someone with whom they have a long-standing relationship, such as a cosmetologist or barber,” Gumucio added.

The free domestic abuse training will be offered through Barbicide, an international manufacturer of a disinfectant that is a staple of salons and barbershops. The training includes a 20-minute video discussing “intimate partner abuse, followed by a short quiz,” The Post reported, adding that those who complete the course successfully are awarded a certificate.

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