Women in New York may be up for a surprise if a proposed new legislation passes, the New York Post reports. It turns out, their hair stylist may be trained to spy on them. A new bill introduced this week would have hair stylists and nail technicians undergo required training to recognize signs of domestic abuse or sexual assault.
Capitalizing on the unique relationship with beauticians have with their customers, lawmakers propose having them prepared to offer guidance if they feel the need, or armed to call an anonymous hotline to call if they suspect anything.
“Clients confide in their hairdressers, so a hairdresser needs the training to know how to respond,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal who sponsored the bill. “Often victims don’t know where to turn, especially if they’re living in fear.”
Service providers gathering details on the personal lives of their customers isn’t an unheard of practice. Doctors have been doing it for years. Many states require doctors to fill out a confidential form after they have seen a child to evaluate for possible abuse of the patient and any siblings present. The YMCA requires all its employees to undergo training on how to recognize and handle a human trafficking victim that escapes to the shelter.
The state of Illinois already has a law requiring beauticians to undergo domestic abuse training. The law began this January and was the inspiration for the New York legislation. It requires anyone applying for a cosmetology license to undergo a training session once every two years. The training enables them recognize the signs of abuse, and keep up-to-date on local resources available if a client confides in them. They would not have to report anything if they didn’t feel comfortable, and they would not be held liable if they didn’t report or see signs. Colorado has a similar bill in the works. According to the bill, victims of domestic abuse may find their trip to the salon to be one of the only times away from their partner.
“Most domestic abuse and sexual assault victims are not monitored during trips to beauty salons.Those in the beauty industry, such as hair stylists, nail specialists, and other cosmetologists, build close relationships with their clients through routine visits. These relationships may result in the disclosure of personal information from clients, as their stylist serves as a neutral party,” the text reads.
Some stylists welcome the knowledge. After all, the bill only requires a one-hour training course. They say that people tell them about their relationships all the time, and if they were more in tune, they might be able to pick up cues. Some admit they have had such revelations come out of their chair. Clients tell them about being chased, choked, or hit. There’s not much they can do other than offer a sympathetic ear. Is that enough?
Critics of the bill worry that interfering in a client’s personal life would break their trust. Many have known their clients for years, sometimes even decades. They love their clients and wouldn’t want them to feel they couldn’t trust them. They may find the required training well-meaning but beyond the scope of the job. Another concern would be abusers showing up at the salon to exact revenge, creating havoc. Not only that, encouraging stylists to look for clues should be done with caution.
Sometimes the dynamic of an abusive relationship can be a complicated one, not always mimicking the black and white scenarios played out in made for TV movies. Some women truly love their partner and just think he just “has a problem.” They aren’t ready to leave the relationship. An anonymous tip by an overzealous, well-meaning stylist, could end up doing more harm than good. Not only would the couple resent the intrusion, the salon will have lost a customer. But, then again, a domestic abuse victim who has nowhere to turn and whispers a few words to a hairstylist who has no tools to handle it, may be worse. That’s what the law hopes to avoid.
“As the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault persists, it is imperative that New York find creative ways to effectively address the issue,” the bill states. “This bill will empower victims to seek help and escape the cycle of abuse without fear of detrimental repercussions.”
Although the bill does not require any action other than to take the course. Beauticians would not have report suspicions if they didn’t feel comfortable, and they would not be held liable if they didn’t catch something. Cosmetology licensing in New York currently involves passing a 1,000-hour classroom course, plus written and practice tests. They then must pay an $80 licensing fee.
It’s a well-meaning law but, it may just end up creating some intrusive scenarios. If it helps a few women out of terrible situations, it may be not be all that bad.