NEW PROGRAM GIVES SALON OWNERS TOOLS TO COMBAT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
By Van Tieu, NY1 News
There’s a saying your hairdresser is also your therapist. In a place where you can let your hair down, relationships between hairstylists and their clients can grow into a very trusting one. Frank Bennett of A.F. Bennett says that’s the dynamic of salons.
“You put your hands on their shoulders, and say: ‘Hey are you having a good day? How you feeling? What is it? What’s going on?’ And you know, they’re usually pretty [forthcoming],” said Frank Bennett, owner of A.F. Bennett Salon in New Dorp.
It’s that relaxing environment where people tend to open up- even about problems at home.
That’s why the Mayor’s office to combat domestic violence and the Staten Island District Attorney’s office are launching a training program for beauty professionals. Salon owners and stylists like Bennett have a unique opportunity to build a bridge between domestic violence victims and resources at the Staten Island Family Justice Center.
“We see them as clear allies on the fight or to end domestic violence,” said Cecile Noel, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence. “Sometimes they are able to hear and see things that others might not. and we want to ensure they have the resources available so they can know where to refer and what to do when this happens.”
Two-hour sessions teach beauty professionals how to identify signs of abuse whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological.
Instructors also help them understand why it’s difficult for many victims to simply leave a hurtful relationship.
They’re also provided the best practices to gently lead victims to the right resources. For example, they’re encouraged to offer supportive statements such as, “What will help you feel safer?” Rather than give victim blaming statements such as, “How can you love someone like that?”
“Hopefully we provide a result that breaks the cycle of intimate partner violence,” said Paul Capofari, Staten Island Chief Assistant District Attorney.
In New York City, there are about 230 calls to the domestic violence hotline everyday, which is more than 85,000 calls a year.
That’s a figure salon owners at Monday’s session say they believe. They say they’ve seen red flags from some of their customers over the years and wanted to be trained to offer help.
Being a part of the program, Bennett says he and his team feel empowered to be a line of defense for those who need support in an unhealthy and abusive relationship.