Thanks to an innovative training program, thousands of beauty professionals are learning to identify signs of domestic abuse and encourage clientele to find help. Why? Because they’re uniquely positioned to help address the problem.
CUT IT OUT, founded in Birmingham, AL, seeks to capitalize on the bonds between women and their beauticians, teaching professionals nationwide — including “hairstylists, skin care specialists, makeup artists and other salon professionals” — about indicators of domestic violence. Professionals in the beauty industry have an advantageous platform from which to detect domestic violence because the focal point of their work is clients’ appearance. Moreover, beauticians frequently establish friendly relationships with customers, and are therefore perceived as trustworthy confidants.
The organization’s Manager of Leadership Operations and Charitable Programs, Rachel Molepske, told ThinkProgress that the program structures its curriculum on the “three R’s” commonly associated with domestic violence advocacy: recognize the problem, respond to it, and refer victims to appropriate outlets for assistance.
Once signs of abuse are recognized, trainees are taught to respond by approaching suspected victims discreetly and without judgment, after which they should refer clients to support services. Workers are encouraged to distribute business cards and educational materials, as well. The importance of upholding the privacy of victims’ experiences is always impressed upon CUT IT OUT participants.
Even though an estimated one-third of all women in the U.S. have experienced violence inflicted by intimate partners, a recent Avon Foundation study found that 57 percent of Americans do not talk about domestic violence at all. Another revealing study conducted by More Magazine and the Verizon Foundation concluded that 75 percent of women don’t discuss domestic abuse with their doctors, even though 100 percent of participants affirmed that the topic should be raised during routine exams. Unfortunately, the absence of dialogue between health care providers and patients is extremely detrimental, as doctors often miss connections between domestic violence and chronic illness among patients; victims are 20 percent more likely to experience long-lasting health problems, such as “depression, diabetes, asthma, and digestive disease.”
Given that the majority of victims do not disclose their experiences due to stigma, shame, and fear of backlash, the work of programs like CUT IT OUT could be an invaluable addition to advocacy efforts. Although the exact number of victims reached through CUT IT OUT is difficult to obtain, Molepske confirmed that thousands of beauticians have participated in the one-hour training sessions.