Hairstylists are learning to identify, help victims of domestic violence

Posted at 11:49 PM, Oct 17, 2017

HAMILTON, Ohio -- The progression of an abusive relationship is like the clenching of a fist. The more time passes, the tighter a violent, controlling partner's grip becomes and the harder it is for a victim to even attempt escape.

When an abuser controls your money, your transportation and your social life, where can you go to find help without setting them off? 

In one Ohio County, that question will soon have a new answer: The beauty parlor.

Most clients open up when they sit down in a chair at The Main Look Salon in Butler County, owner Kim McCaughey said Tuesday. She and her staff hope to use the unique relationship shared by hairdressers and clients -- one that is paradoxically intimate and anonymous -- to identify women who are being abused and connect them with resources that can help.

"Sometimes you're too embarrassed to tell your family," Angel, a survivor of domestic violence, said. "Sometimes it's easier to tell a stranger, so if someone asks, that's your opening to finding a way."

That's the idea behind Cut It Out, a nationwide program that trains hairstylists to recognize signs of domestic abuse in their clients and create partnerships between salons and victim advocacy organizations.

"Because salon professionals are skilled and experienced listeners who are personally interested in those around them, many victims suffering from abuse feel comfortable confiding in them - even if they would never tell anyone else," the Cut It Out website claims.

McCaughey said she saw the wisdom behind involving hairstylists in abused women's fight for freedom.

"A lot of times our clients open up to us very much because we don't know who they're talking about. We don't know their husbands so they open up to us and tell us many, many things," she said.

Cincinnati-based WCPO does not typically withhold sources' full names, but did so in Angel's case because of ongoing concerns about her safety.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline ( 1-800-799-SAFE) is open 24/7 to callers of all genders across the country. Women Helping Women also offers a 24-hour hotline at 513-381-5610.