Beauty parlors may soon be the front lines in the fight against domestic violence.
State legislators have introduced a bill that would mandate that hair stylists, nail technicians and skin-care specialists receive training to help them identify the signs of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Modeled on a new Illinois law, the measure would encourage beauticians to offer guidance to victimized customers without being invasive.
Lawmakers chose hair- and nail-salon professionals for the program because of their special relationships with customers.
“Clients confide in their hairdressers, so a hairdresser needs the training to know how to respond,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan, who sponsored the bill. “Often victims don’t know where to turn, especially if they’re living in fear.”
Domestic-violence victims reported 24,986 assaults, 1,086 sex offenses and 8,842 order-of-protection violations in 2016, NYPD records show. And experts say these types of incidents are often under-reported.
In the past year, order-of-protection violations rose 3 percent, domestic assaults 4 percent and sex offenses 11 percent, records show.
The bill allows the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence to design an education session, likely consisting of an online course or an in-person presentation by a health expert.
Some stylists said they welcome the training.
“I think there are a lot of cues I probably wouldn’t pick up because I haven’t been trained to identify them,” said Hannah Lichtenstein, who has worked at Blackstones in the East Village for seven years. “People talk to me about their relationships all the time but they don’t get so deep that they tell me the worst parts of it,” she added. “If I was more in tune, I might pick up on” them.
Stylist Laura Costa, of Williamsburg’s Mousey Brown Salon, supports the measure but admits, “It’s a very touchy area. I don’t want the trust to be broken. A lot of my women I’ve been seeing for years, we’re very close and we talk a lot. I love them dearly.”
Beauticians would not be required to report incidents to police or offer counseling, and they would not be liable for failing to recognize signs of abuse.
“It’s not a therapy session or giving psychological advice,” Rosenthal said. “The training will provide the stylist with resources in the community to turn [to] for help,” such as hotlines or contacts at crisis centers.
Under the proposal, hairdressers, nail-salon workers, skin-care specialists and other beauticians would not be able to renew their state licenses or apply for a new one without the domestic-violence training. To obtain a state cosmetology license, stylists and nail specialists must complete a 1,000-hour course, pass written and practice tests approved by the state and pay $80 in fees.
The proposed legal mandate did not sit well with all stylists, some of whom suggested they should be offered incentives — like lower license and application fees — to take the training.
“Ransoming licensure with a requirement for training in this area is overreach by the government,” said Meredith Chesney, who owns Mousey Brown as well as The Corner Barber. “Legislating additional education requirements outside of the scope of the trade may be well-meaning, but it’s not actually fair or sound legislation.”