Lowell beauty-school students learn signs of domestic violence
May 9, 2013
By Lisa Redmond
LOWELL -- Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan shocked a group of budding beauty-school students Tuesday by telling them they are the key to preventing one of the nation's biggest public-health issues -- domestic violence.
"It is an enormous problem,'' Ryan told about 90 students during the DA's "Cut It Out'' program at Empire Beauty School in downtown Lowell.
The domestic-violence prevention-training program focuses on teaching stylists how to identify signs of domestic violence and abuse, and how to help their clients access resources.
Hairdressers are in a unique position, Ryan said, because people often tell a favorite hairdresser what's happening in their lives.
"People tell their hairdresser amazing things they wouldn't tell their best friend,'' Ryan said.
"One of the hardest things to do when sharing difficult information is to look someone in the eye and see the reaction on their face,'' she said.
When cutting hair, hairdressers are usually looking at the back of the person's head and not their face, she said.
"This is why you are truly the key,'' Ryan told the students.
"It is so much easier to tell someone something important when you don't look them in the face,'' she said. "People are going to feel safe in telling you something because they don't see your reaction on your face.''
Hairdressers often have long-term relationships with their clients, adding to a sense of familiarity and trust, and "everybody gets their hair cut,'' Ryan said.
Abusers feel safe in letting the victim go to a salon because "they want the victim to look good because it is a reflection on the abuser,'' she said.
But Ryan noted that hairdressers should be aware of the signs of abuse:
* Missing hair as a result of the abuser pulling the victim's hair
* Damaged hair from stress
* Bumps, marks and scars on the face and scalp
* Broken blood vessels in the eyes
* Scratches or cuts (defensive wounds) on the hands or wrists
* Unusual excuses for injuries
* Missed appointments
* Headaches, backaches and physical soreness as a result of physical abuse
* Isolation from family and friends, controlling behavior such as constant texts or calls during the appointment and approval of appointments, hair style, color and wardrobe.
If a hairdresser sees the signs of abuse, Ryan warns, "never confront the abuser.''
She told the students not be supportive, but not judgmental toward the victim. Respect boundaries and offer resources for safety and services, but don't dictate.
Display pamphlets, brochures and other resources at the salon and build relationships with local advocates and law enforcement.
"You have the tools to listen and help,'' Ryan said.
Empire's Executive Director Jennifer Durazzo-Smith said the training session is provided each year to each new group of students. She described the Cut It Out program as "terrific.''
The program is part of the public-private partnership with the DA's Office that couples the national program to Empire's three Middlesex county schools in Malden, Framingham and Lowell.
Representatives from Alternative House, a women's shelter in Lowell, and the Lowell Police Department explained the resources they have available.
Domestic violence can be physical, mental, emotional, sexual and financial, Ryan said. It cuts across all socio-economic lines and it isn't a "gender specific issue,'' but rather a "intimate partner issue.''
During a 24-hour census in 2011, 1,799 domestic violence victims in Massachusetts were served by community-based domestic-violence programs, according the Middlesex DA's Office.
In 2012, over 30,000 restraining order were filed in Massachusetts, of those 5,000 were issued in Middlesex courts, the DA's office said.