City Council hears plan to train salon workers to spot domestic abuse

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In an effort to stop domestic violence, the Chicago City Council is considering a plan to train beauty salon workers to recognize signs of abuse.

Going in for a haircut or color also means, for many women, going in for an intimate conversation with their hair stylist.

"I personally have had clients tell me all kinds of personal things and I know other stylists who have as well," says Amanda Heinritz, a salon owner in Chicago.

Domestic violence advocates are hoping to use that relationship to help those who are victims of abuse to open up about their situations.

It is currently estimated that one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. In Cook County alone, the State's Attorney's office handles about 450 domestic violence cases a week.

"Those don't include murders or sexual assaults that may have a domestic aspect to them," says Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Hoping to turn salon workers into first responders, Alvarez was among those who testified before a City Council committee hearing today. They hope a resolution by the council will help advance a bill currently in the Illinois House, which would require salon workers looking to renew their license to undergo one hour of training a year to help recognize the signs of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

"If you have a regular salon appointment you can see someone struggling with depression or other signs that make you say, something's not quite right here," says Dorri McWhorter, of the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

At the Barbara and Barbara hair salon in Logan Square, co-owner Amanda Heinritz supports the idea as long as the stylist is comfortable approaching his or her client regarding the issue.

"I do think that any stylist out there should help a client that may be in a situation like this," Heinritz says. "Personally, if someone came to me and was in an issue I would try to help them no matter what."

The City Council as a whole will take up the resolution during their next meeting on Wednesday.
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