A new law taking effect in Illinois Jan. 1 will put hair stylists on the front lines to combat domestic violence. Illinois will be the first state in the nation to require hair stylists receive training to spot if their clients might be victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The law does not make salon workers mandatory reporters but encourages them to direct clients to resources.
Penny Wilson of KM Hair Salon in Normal applauds the idea behind the new law and understand stylists are often confidants for their clients but she worries about unintended consequences. Wilson doesn’t want to deal with angry spouses coming into the shop because she suggested a client seek help. "How do I take care of that [advising her client on resources] and not have the repercussions come my way if there truly is something and the abuser comes after me next?"
Wilson was also disappointed she didn't hear more about the proposal before Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill into law in August. She thinks salon owners could have provided some valuable input. "We weren't polled, we didn't get a letter, we weren't asked, 'Would this be a good idea?'"
Proposed by State Rep. Fran Hurley, D-Chicago, the new law would affect cosmetologists, hairdressers and nail technicians and proof of training would be a condition of their license which must be renewed every two years. Although more than 4.7 million 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.
Cut It Out
The Illinois law is based on the Professional Beauty Association's "Cut It Out" campaign that recognizes salons are a neutral environment and many people confide in their hair stylist about situations they don't even tell their closest friends.
Vicki Tilton who owns Fox and Hounds Hair Salon and Day Spa in downtown Bloomington said of the new law, "It is a good idea. If it will encourage stylists to recognize and give support to victims then it will be effective." But, she added, "I am glad they are not making hairdressers mandatory reporters because it could be very difficult and maybe even dangerous to be held to that level of responsibility for stylists."
But, Tilton still hasn't seen specifics. "I am aware of the law but we've had no information from the state to indicate how we are to comply." She added, "That's pretty standard for the state when passing new laws."