Sask. advocate sees benefit in educating salon workers on domestic violence

Training is being offered in some Canadian provinces and U.S. states to salon professionals to help recognize the signs of domestic violence and how to provide information to someone experiencing it.

Trainer says salon professionals see changes in behavior of clients

Training is being offered in some Canadian provinces and U.S. states to salon professionals to help recognize the signs of domestic violence and how to provide information to someone experiencing it. (iStock)

Women who are experiencing domestic violence can't always go to a doctor's office or a location that can offer them help, but they can usually still go for a haircut.

That's why training is being offered in some Canadian provinces and U.S. states to salon professionals to help recognize the signs of domestic violence and how to provide information to someone experiencing it.

"If they know how to recognize signs and be familiar with local referral agencies, that's going to really help," Chrystal Giesbrecht, director of research and communication for the Provincial Association of Transition Housing in Saskatchewan, said.  

Giesbrecht is one of several Canadian advocates applauding a new Illinois law requiring people who want to work in the beauty industry to have education on domestic violence.

"I think that beauty professionals are in a unique position because sometimes women who are experiencing violence aren't able to reach out to a domestic violence counselling service without arousing their partner's suspicion," Giesbrecht explained, saying that's why more Canadian provinces should get on board.

Giesbrecht added that many remote and rural areas may not have services for victims of domestic violence, but there is usually a hairdresser or beauty professional there.

Salon workers not counsellors

Arlene Morell worked in a salon for 30 years before becoming the program director and a trainer for the Cut It Out program, which provides education on domestic violence to salon professionals in Ontario.

"This is not about turning salon professionals into counsellors," Morell said, explaining that the training provides workers with the knowledge of what to recognize in their clients' behavior and how to direct them to supports.

"We get to know our clients over the years very well. And often times we see those changes in the patterns of their behavior."

That could include changes in a client's appointments, how they pay for their service, having a new partner that accompanies them to the salon, having a partner tell the hairdresser how to perform the service or seeing a client become more withdrawn.

Morell said it often isn't just one warning sign, but a pattern of them.

The Cut It Out program, Morell said, also encourages workers to offer information in a way that keeps both them and the client safe.

With files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition