Londa Brown and Darlene Copeland, a pair of hairstylists from Chicago’s South Side, have spent so many hours listening to their customers talk about the ups and downs of their lives that the two jokingly refer to themselves as therapists.
But along with amusing tales, their customers also share troubling stories of relationships that have turned violent. This has included signs of abuse, like when a client is suddenly withdrawn or missing a clump of hair.
The state of Illinois aims to leverage the rapport and trust stylists like Brown and Copeland enjoy with their customers by teaching them to recognise signs of domestic violence and sexual assault and to know where clients can seek professional help.
Now, cosmetologists in Illinois must take an hour-long class on domestic violence as part of their broader licensing requirements. The regulation, adopted by the state in January, is believed to be the first programme of its kind in the country.
On Sunday, around 150 of the state’s nearly 90,000 cosmetologists, attended one of the first of these classes, held at a downtown Chicago convention centre.
“There is a certain relationship between the cosmetologist and their client,” said Democratic state Rep. Fran Hurley, who sponsored the legislation.
“They talk about everything under the sun and some have a relationship that could last decades.”
“It actually did have a benefit,” she said. “I didn’t think it would.” – Reuters