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Spotting the signs: Training allows hair stylists, other professions to recognize signs of abuse

A bruise on the scalp won't catch the eye of most, but, if seen by a hair stylist with special training, that injury could be the key to getting a domestic violence victim to seek help.

A bruise on the scalp won't catch the eye of most, but, if seen by a hair stylist with special training, that injury could be the key to getting a domestic violence victim to seek help.

In Grand Forks, the Community Violence Intervention Center provides free or low cost training to hair stylists and a host of other professionals with the goal of getting employees to recognize signs of abuse.

"We're not asking them to fix it or intervene," said CVIC's Prevention and Education Coordinator Kari Kerr. "But we do encourage them to make a referral," which can be given to the police or CVIC.

The training is tailored to professions by CVIC staff, though there is extra help from other programs. For example, training materials for hair stylists come through a national initiative called Cut It Out: Salons Against Domestic Abuse.

Training offerings have been successful, according to Kerr, with more than 1,850 professionals ranging from teachers to clergy to corrections personnel reached through 100 training presentations in 2013.


Recognizing the signs

While medical and law enforcement personnel are common recipients of this training, Kerr said it is valuable to other types of professionals as well.

In the case of hair stylists, who often build a strong relationship with clients, they may uncover abuse indicators that go unnoticed by others.

"They can pick up on hidden injuries under someone's hair," Kerr said. Examples include cuts and bruises or bald spots where hair has been torn out. A high frequency of injuries with unusual explanations also can be an indicator.

Dale Thompson, an instructor at Josef's School of Hair Design, said the training was offered to students in 2012 but would be nice to have again at the school.

"I think it would be great for the students," she added.

CVIC usually reaches out to hair stylists through mailings, according to Kerr.

Finding hidden injuries is a situation that could be encountered at other places such as a dental office where a dental hygienist or dentist may see injuries inside mouths.


All professionals receiving the training also are taught to recognize verbal signs.

These can include clients speaking with fear of a partner, low-self esteem and unrealistic guilt for actions.

The training's reach also can extend to a waiting room if support staff members participate.

If signs are present, Kerr said the next -- and often hardest -- step is having a conversation with the client about the concerns a staff member may have.

"How do you have that conversation? It's not easy," Kerr said. "People tend to think domestic violence is a private family matter. It's not. It's a crime."

Making a difference

While a number of professionals are mandated to report suspected child abuse to authorities only medical professionals are required to report potential abuse concerning an adult.

That's why more eyes and ears capable of recognizing signs of abuse and making referrals are a good thing, according to Kerr.


"I think (the training has) definitely made a difference in the community," she said.

The goal of spreading a similar message through various professionals and CVIC is to give victims more places to get to help or be referred to agencies that can help.

Those who participated in the training seemed to think it would make a difference as well.

Of 641 surveyed professionals who received the training in 2013, 95 percent said it provided them with knowledge and skills that they think will help them assist victims or offenders.

In addition to professional training, CVIC also provided general education about domestic violence to 5,975 adults and 2,017 students and children in 2013.

Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1108 or send email to bjewett@gfherald.com .

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