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March 26, 2017

This year a new law, HB4264, takes effect in the state of Illinois. It’s a big step forward to help abused women. The law focuses on the close relationships between a woman and her beauty care practitioner, ie: her hairdresser, masseuse, manicurist, etc.

As of January 2017, every state-licensed beauty care practitioner is required to attend an hour of state-sponsored training to identify signs of domestic violence. Although, the state does not require the personal care worker to report the abuse to authorities, it does protect her liability against criminal or civil charges when acting in good faith to report, or failing to report, a client’s symptoms of abuse.

Probably the most important aspect of the state training is the information that it gives the practitioner to share with abused women. This may include the phone numbers for organizations that shelter abused women, and a list of what an abused woman should take when she breaks free. An abused woman needs to have basic essentials ready for her break to freedom and to live on her own. For example: identification papers and investment records necessary when filing for divorce. The abused woman also needs to learn signs of when when her abuser is about to boil over and when to run out with nothing but children. Possessions can be replaced. Lives cannot.

Women who regularly visit a hairstylist often enjoy how personal their conversations are. Even when confidentiality is not discussed, they feel that their secrets will not be not passed on, even to a client’s family member.

Beauty care practitioners are particularly likely to notice evidence of physical abuse. Often, abusers aim their blows at places on their victims’ bodies that are not readily seen when they are dressed. The masseuse in a spa, a manicurist, or a hairdresser may be the only one who notice bruises on the stomach, on the scalp, or on the feet.

Illinois is the first state in our nation to require personal-care beauty workers to take this training as part of their licensing requirements. Passing similar laws in other states will take time, but we can start helpful practices without a law. Salons and spas can post shelter organizations’ phone numbers and other information on relationship abuse. One Chicago salon owner puts the business cards of a local sheltering group in the beauty shop’s restroom. Her clients take so many of those cards that she must regularly refill the card-holder.

What can you do personally to help abused women?

• Prepare an informational card about the signs of abuse for your hairdresser, etc.
• Go to the local shelter organization and ask for business cards. Take them to salons and ask for permission to display them.
• Write to your state legislature about the Illinois law. And promote a similar one for your state.
• Volunteer to work for a women’s shelter organization.
• Talk to your hairdresser, other spa personnel, and your friends about this blog (

At the same time that the Illinois law took effect, the 2017 Women’s March inspired hundreds of thousands to promote women’s rights. Spreading information about relationship abuse fit nicely into their follow-up list of action goals. Women in all states will benefit.

What are you, your community, city or state doing to get the word out to women who need to break free? My readers and I would like to hear about it. Please reply to this post or email me at


C. L. Woodhams, Prize-winning author of THE OUTREACH COMMITTEE
Available from,, and

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