A first-of-its-kind law will provide hair salon employees throughout the state with training in order to be able to identify signs of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
The law, signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August, is set to take effect Jan. 1. House Bill 4264 amends the Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding and Nail Technology Act of 1985.
Licensed beauty professionals will be required to take an hourlong course every two years in domestic abuse and sexual assault education and support when they renew their license or seek a new one, as determined by rule of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. If a licensed professional does not complete the training, his or her license may not be renewed by the state.
The new law does not make hairdressers or cosmetologists submit mandated reports. Rather, it seeks to provide resources and tools to those in the field to pass along to their clients if and when they’re needed.
Those in support of the bill have said that hair salons act as a neutral party for their clients, and customers often feel comfortable sharing personal information they might not otherwise disclose to friends or family.
Although more than 4,700,000 women are physically abused by a partner each year, only 34 percent seek medical treatment and only 25 percent report the incident to police, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Salon managers and owners throughout McHenry County have expressed their support for the bill, citing the close relationship many employees develop with their clients on a regular basis.
Linda Mumford, owner of Hair Ink LLC in McHenry, said even if it only helps one person it’s worth the time and training necessary to be able to understand more about domestic violence and the signs that go along with it.
“We’re kind of like the psychologists of hair,” Mumford said. “Your clients come in, and a lot of time they get comfortable with you to share what goes on in their lives. You just build that relationship, and they feel very trusted.”
Mumford said the training likely will be a tremendous help for anyone, especially the younger employees who come in with less experience.
Angela Henderson, manager of Hair Cuttery in Crystal Lake, said any additional training employees can get always is a beneficial thing, especially on topics such as domestic violence.
“We’re not only hairdressers; we feel like counselors, psychologists,” Henderson said. “Clients feel comfortable with you, and so they tend to open up more.”
Turning Point Executive Director Jane Farmer said the law provides employees in the cosmetology field with knowledge and information in order to help clients who may be reaching out to them. She said they hear what’s going on from a client, and they also are able to detect and see bruising in the scalp or along the hairline.
Farmer said Turning Point and CASA of McHenry County eventually could become training sites for employees in the county, pending state approval.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to find out. They are already finding the information out; they just aren’t sure what to do,” she said.