Small talk among cosmetologists and their clients is an
everyday occurrence, helping pass the time during a perm, coloring or pedicure. In fact, out of a list of “10 Customer Service Tips Cosmetology Students Need to Remember,” the Top 3 include greeting, conversing with and listening to their clients. But are hairdressers really prepared for what they might hear? And what if the conversation leads to signs that the client is a victim of spousal abuse?
Director Bonnie Loiodice of Family Services of Southeast Texas said that hair stylists shouldn’t shy away from such conversations, but instead use them as an opportunity to make a difference in their clients’ lives.
“It’s an opportunity for the professional to help women that are in crisis and are being victimized,” Loiodice said. “Sometimes it’s the only opportunity the woman is going to have.”
Monday, June 3, Family Services of Southeast Texas hosted and Entergy Texas sponsored a free “Cut it Out” luncheon at Café Del Rio in Beaumont, where Loiodice educated Southeast Texas hairdressers on how to identify signs of domestic abuse and how to properly direct their clients to the resources that can enable them to get out of such relationships.
“People build a relationship over time with different beauty professionals,” Loiodice said. “They find someone and they like how they cut their hair and they stay with them. That gives the beauty operator an opportunity to really get to know the person and notice changes and notice injuries. Also the victim can feel more comfortable speaking to the beauty operator because they’ve had a long-term relationship over years.”
Ginger Crisp and Suzanne Shirley, owners of Thairapy Salon and Spa in Beaumont, said that they have had several clients confide in them when they felt they had no one else to turn to.
“We’ve had women over the years who have talked about abuse,” Crisp said. “I have had many customers talk to me about past childhood sexual abuse, about past spouses and boyfriends who have beat them. I have current clients whose husbands have hit them. I have a client whose arm got broken. We have dealt with many, many levels of abuse in all different ways — even just emotional abuse, which I think is the most common form of abuse. Lots of women experience being controlled by their spouses — financially, where they go, how they wear their hair or what kind of clothes they wear, where they spend their time and efforts. There are all different levels of abuse.”
Crisp said she and Shirley were not trained in school on how to handle such a situation, but thanks to “Cut it Out,” she believes she and her colleagues will have the training they need to help these clients.
“This program is going to train us to better assist them,” Crisp said. “If we are more educated on services that are out there (for the abused client) that are free and available, I think that we will be able to help them better.”
“We’ll be able to give them information that we didn’t know that was out there,” Shirley added.
Both women agree that the subject of domestic abuse should be covered in cosmetology school so that when students enter the workforce, they will be prepared to handle the situation in a professional manner.
“I definitely think that there should be more training on how to deal with the personal side of our business,” Crisp said.
“The relationship between you and your client is the most important thing,” Shirley said.
And some cosmetology schools are already taking the initiative to implement such a curriculum.
Cindy Guidry, program coordinator of cosmetology at Lamar State College - Port Arthur, said that the school uses the “Cut it Out” program regularly to train students on domestic violence and how to handle clients that report it.
“We’re not supposed to counsel (clients) … we’re not supposed to give them advice,” Guidry said. “We’re just supposed to let them know that there is a place if they feel they need to talk to someone, and that’s what we tell our students. We can give that person a card and tell them here’s a number you need to call whenever you’re ready to do it, but we can’t report it.”
Guidry said that she never actually thought about implementing domestic abuse training into the cosmetology curriculum until one of her students showed signs of being abused while Guidry was styling the student’s hair.
“One day I was doing her hair and showing how to do a haircut, and I saw this spot on her head,” she said. “One of the other students told me that she had been abused by her boyfriend. I guess she didn’t know that I would recognize that she had a big plug of hair out. We don’t think that it is this close to us, but it is something that is around us.”
One in three adult Texans will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime, 1,044,514 Texans (5.9 percent) are currently in an abusive relationship and more than 57 percent of Texans know someone who has been in an abusive relationship, according to the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, a research team from the University of Texas. In 2010 alone, 142 Texas women were killed by their husband, ex-husband, intimate partner, boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, the Texas Council on Family Violence website states, and Texas Department of Public Safety reports that 207,474 offenders were involved in more than 193,000 incidents of family violence resulting in 211,769 victims that year as well.
“The beauty community is in the middle of it all,” Loiodice said. “They’re in a profession where they are more likely to be able to recognize it, see it and offer the person some information if that’s what they are ready for.”
According to the “Cut it Out” website, the program is dedicated to mobilizing salon professionals and others to fight the epidemic of domestic abuse in communities across the United States. “Cut it Out” builds awareness of domestic abuse through materials displayed in salons, the Adopt-a-Shelter initiative to involve salons in helping local domestic violence agencies, and training salon professionals to recognize warning signs and safely refer clients to resources. For more information, visit www.cutitout.org .
Schools interested in implementing “Cut it Out” training should contact Bonnie Loiodice at (409) 832-7575. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, call Family Services of Southeast Texas Crisis Hotline at (800) 621-8882.
Kevin King can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 225, or by e-mail at kevin [at] theexaminer [dot] com.