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More Snitches

June 19, 2006 permalink

Add your barber to the list of people not to trust. The state of Maine is enlisting hair stylists as snitches for the social services system.



Salons join effort to stop violence
Maine hairstylists to help eliminate abuse

WATERVILLE - Maine is enlisting hairstylists in the ongoing effort to eliminate domestic abuse.

The idea is that women often open up to their hairdressers, so they should be alert and report problems.

"You build a trust with your stylist. They are the ones who are looking out for you," said Debra Krasniak of Cosmotech School in Westbrook, where a training session was held last month. "You tell your stylist a lot of things, and it becomes a safe place at times."

The second phase of training for beauty salon workers was being held Tuesday at Pierre's School of Cosmetology in Waterville, building on the earlier session in Greater Portland. Additional training will be offered next month in Bangor.

Attorney General Steven Rowe called domestic violence an "insidious problem" and pointed out that a domestic assault occurs in the state at the rate of once every 97 minutes. In the last two years, 38 Maine people died in domestic violence homicides.

The training program for beauty salon workers is similar to efforts in Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia and Ohio, said Nicky Blanchard, spokeswoman for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

It is based on a key finding of a report by the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel: Many people recognized abuse in relationships that ended in homicide, but did nothing.

"By familiarizing ourselves with potential warning signs of domestic violence and educating ourselves on the resources available, we increase our society's ability to help victims," said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who led the panel.

The report by the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel said inaction by bystanders allows abuse to continue. "Bystanders often observe abusive and controlling behavior but do not talk to the victim," the report said.

Sometimes controlling behavior can be spotted by a stylist, Krasniak said.

"You might start offering a change [of hairstyle] and she says, 'No he would not like that,' or 'He would kill me if I cut my hair,"' she said. "You start to think there might be some control issues."

Over the years Krasniak has suspected that some of her clients were victims of abuse. Some of them opened up and described their partner's behavior.

"I would just listen to what they told me," she said. "I told them there were programs out there and just advised them to seek help."

The new program trains stylists to steer people who may be abused toward one of the state's nine domestic violence projects, Blanchard said.

Stylists are supplied with literature to post in their shops, as well as nail files that have an organization's contact information.

Similar training efforts have been conducted with state employees, law enforcement officers, clergy and schools.

"The duty to learn more and do more extends well beyond police and prosecutors," Marchese said. "Everyone in the community can help."

Source: Bangor Daily News