New Brunswick

Cosmetologists given training to spot family violence

Cosmetologists in Saint John are being given new training to help them identify potential victims of family violence and know how to steer their customers toward services to help them.

Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research is leading the training with cosmetologists

Cosmetologists in Saint John are being given training on Monday to spot possible signs of family violence from their customers. (Rachel Cave/CBC)

Cosmetologists in Saint John are being given new training to help them identify potential victims of family violence and know how to steer their customers toward services to help them.

The Saint John Police Force will be holding the training session with cosmetologists on Monday in conjunction with the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research.

Cathy Holtmann, the centre's director, said the partnership with the city's police force and the cosmetologists just makes sense.

For many people, their cosmetologist may not be in their social circle, but they may open up and tell that person something they may not share with anyone else.

The bottom line is you could save a life by asking a difficult question.- Cathy Holtmann, director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research

​Holtmann said research shows that victims of family or domestic violence are more likely to tell a friend than they are to report it to the police.

"So we want to capitalize on this kind of intimacy that cosmetologists have with their clients," she said.

Doug Black, the president of the New Brunswick Cosmetology Association, said the partnership with the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre has been very beneficial for people in the industry.

"It has been a very win-win situation for their training," Black said.

"We probably know more about a lot of these people than maybe somebody in their family just because that is how close that bond is and the information you share," he added.

Family violence rates high in New Brunswick

Recent reports have shown New Brunswick has some of the highest rates of family violence among the provinces.

Statistics Canada reported that there were 1,426 victims of police-reported family violence in 2013, which was a rate of 190.1 victims per 100,000 people. The Canadian average was 195.6 victims per 100,000.

In 2012, a Statistics Canada report indicated the family violence rate in Saint John was 420 victims for every 100,000 people compared to the national average of 294.

Holtmann said the training that will be offered to cosmetologists will be geared toward showing them what language and scenarios a client may raise that could signal they may be a victim of some sort of violence.

She said the cosmetologists will then be trained on how to respond to that situation.

"We are not wanting cosmetologists to become trained professionals in the area of family violence but we want them to listen with sensitivity, to ask the right questions and then if they think it is appropriate to recommend services within our communities of professionals who can help people," Holtmann said.

There are some obvious signs that a person can look for, such as bruises or injuries. But it can also be subtle cues in a conversation or if a person changes their behaviour.

The centre's director said the training is important because the cosmetologists could be posing an intimate question but she said it is worth it.

"The bottom line is you could save a life by asking a difficult question," she said.

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