October is recognized nationally as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The month-long focus on domestic violence is intended to educate the public and emphasize the need for community involvement in efforts intended to reduce domestic violence.
A national nonprofit organized as the Salons Against Domestic Abuse Fund has a unique domestic violence education and awareness program called Cut It Out, which has been successfully implemented in beauty salons around the country. Recognizing that often times women in abusive relationships need help but don't know where to turn, Cut It Out trains salon professionals how to recognize the warning signals of domestic violence and safely refer clients to local resources.
The premise behind Cut It Out is based on the recognition that women often form a close bond based on trust with their hair stylists. Stylists see their clients regularly, month after month, year after year, and are personally interested in them and their lives. The nature of the job dictates that stylists be good listeners and often times lengthy and personal conversations occur during the hair-styling process where women confide things that they may not tell anyone else.
Cut It Out seeks to ensure that stylists know what to do with the potentially dangerous confidences that may be revealed during these conversations. The stylists are not trained to become counselors nor to insert themselves in the situation, which could put both sides at risk, but rather to ensure that the client has the information that she may need to take herself out of the situation.
The program also recognizes that often times the salon is a safe environment and may be one of the few places where an abused woman is allowed to go alone. Often women who are abused are watched and followed by their abusers and have found that the hair salon is an acceptable excuse where they can safely get away from a dangerous situation. Placing resources in these locations ensures that the information is able to make its way to those most in need.
The hands-on nature of the contact between a stylist and a client also uniquely positions the stylist to be able to see signs of domestic violence that may not be visible to the average person. Bruises on a clients head or areas where hair has been ripped out of her scalp may indicate to the stylist that there is a serious problem at home.
The educational component of the Cut It Out program consists of seminars that provide salon professionals with information about domestic violence and teach them how to respond to a client who might be a victim of abuse. These seminars are targeted towards cosmetology schools and ongoing education for salon professionals to better equip stylists to respond to instances of potential domestic violence.
The salons also participate in the program by creating a safe and inviting environment that is intended to encourage clients to ask for information on domestic violence. Salons are asked to hang posters with awareness information in private areas of the salon and safety card kits small enough to be hidden inside of a women's shoe are distributed at the salons by being placed at stylist stations or in the ladies room. These trifold cards about the size of a business card list important information including what to do if your partner becomes violent and a toll-free number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
In August, Empire Education Group, the nation's largest group of corporate owned cosmetology schools, launched a national anti-domestic violence campaign called Empire Gives Back, which will benefit communities nationwide by supporting the Cut It Out program. Empire is coordinating a national roll out of the Cut It Out program to all 87 of its schools across the country. This means that the program will reach more than eleven-thousand students annually.
Empire is also working with the U.S. Attorneys Office to adopt a local domestic violence support organization within proximity to each Empire school. Clients seeking support from these adopted support organizations will also become eligible to receive financial assistance to attend any Empire Beauty School in the country.
To further prove that Empire is putting its money where its mouth is (or where its scissors are), this past Saturday the company held its annual Day of Beauty. All proceeds from hair, skin, and nail services taken in on that day will be used to benefit the Cut It Out program.
Since its inception, the Cut It Out program has enlisted the support of more than 40,000 salon professionals and has distributed more than 400,000 posters and 3,000,000 safety cards. This initiative "thinks outside the box" while providing a innovative way to help end the fear and pain of domestic violence. That's an agenda we all should support.
Statements made in this post are my own and not intended to reflect the views, opinions, or position of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General.