Chicago hairstylists get trained in abuse counselling

Around 150 cosmetologists gathered in Chicago Sunday to take an hour-long class on domestic violence, which is now a requirement for anyone in Illinois who wants a licence to practice.

CHICAGO (REUTERS) - The state of Illinois aims to leverage the rapport and trust that hairstylists enjoy with their customers by teaching them to recognise signs of domestic violence and sexual assault and to know where clients can seek professional help.

Now, cosmetologists in Illinois must take an hour-long class on domestic violence as part of their broader licensing requirements. The regulation, adopted by the state in January, is believed to be the first programme of its kind in the country.

On Sunday, around 150 of the state's nearly 90,000 cosmetologists, attended one of the first of these classes, held at a downtown Chicago convention center.

At the session, trainers taught the students that a sudden change in demeanour, a reluctance to put on a robe at a spa or tales of repeated insults from a spouse could signal an unhealthy and even dangerous relationship.

If hairstylists spot any of these warning signs, the trainers urged them to be considerate listeners, avoid blaming the victim and then point the client in the direction of organisations that can provide support.

Chicago Says No More, a domestic abuse and sexual assault outreach organisation, worked with lawmakers on crafting the legislation.