Salon Professionals Bill Expands Domestic Violence Awareness

By Kristin Boza

Domestic violence awareness is at the forefront of the Beverly/Morgan Park community, thanks to the efforts of local domestic violence non-profit groups A New Direction and Chicago Says No More. In fact, State Rep. Fran Hurley and State Sen. Bill Cunningham sponsored an amendment to an existing cosmetology training law that was passed in Jan. 2017 and will be in effect by Jan. 2019 requiring an additional hour of training for licensed salon professionals on becoming more aware of domestic violence.  

“The Illinois salon professionals bill is a truly transformative piece of legislation,” said Jessica McCarihan, president of A New Direction and a member of the steering committee of Chicago Says No More, which, along with Ald. Matt O’Shea, Hurley, and Cunningham, was responsible for the legislation and curriculum. “There are over 80,000 salon professionals in the state of Illinois, all of whom will soon know how to support and connect with their clients who may be affected by domestic violence. The number of people who will be helped through this training is amazing. The awareness creation, education on the issue and the connecting of survivors to much-needed resources is imperative to help break the cycle of violence now and for future generations.” 

Joan Each Rowan, owner of Everything’s Relative Beverly, 10548 S. Western Ave., and Everything’s Relative Oak Lawn, has advocated on behalf of domestic violence victims throughout her career and has made it one of her missions in life to ensure that those who need help getting out of an abusive situation are aware of their options. 

“I’ve been a hairdresser for 44 years, and the industry has always been very aware of domestic violence due to the fact that we are in a ‘high touch’ industry — we’re constantly with women,” Each Rowan said. “We’re aware of when people are being abused, and not just physically.” 

Each Rowan and her colleagues have heard numerous tales of domestic abuse, from women fearing their husbands will see that they spent money on their hair, to men calling the salon angrily wondering why their wives changed their hair color from blonde to brunette.  

After having another local domestic violence activist, Rita Ryan, talk to her salon staff over 20 years ago about recognizing signs of abuse, Each Rowan began a path of advocacy that hasn’t let up.  

“I realized that we all need awareness, so I decided to [talk about it] more regularly. We started putting cards with resource numbers to call in our bathrooms at the salon, and to this day we still find that we have to refill the cards quite often,” she said. “I’m thankful for the #MeToo movement, Chicago Says No More, A New Direction, and many other people and organizations that have been working on bringing awareness long before we had a law.”   

It’s important to note that the new law does not teach hair dressers and others with a cosmetology license to be mandated reporters or counselors; rather, hair stylists will learn to recognize signs of abuse so that they can discreetly offer resources. “We’re teaching them to be aware if they have a client with hair ripped out of her head, or the client says that she ‘fell down’ again. Hair dressers learn that if a client is avoiding eye contact or sitting in the chair shamefully that they can bring up potential resources by saying ‘you know, I have some stuff in the bathroom with phone numbers you can call if you need help.’ That’s the kind of conversation they are learning to have,” Each Rowan said. 

Each Rowan stresses that the beauty shop is a safe place and gossip is strictly prohibited among staff. “Our goal is for our clients to be safe. By educating the staff, you can change the world,” she said. “In the middle class society where we live, there’s shame brought on when admitting that the person you love is abusive. The reality is that we are trying to get out and talk about it. We have to stop it, because it’s not stopping on its own.”    

For more information on domestic violence awareness, Everything’s Relative Beverly is hosting a workshop on Mon., Oct. 15 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. In collaboration with St. Bernadette Parish, this event intends to inform attendees about domestic violence. Call the salon at 773-941-6565 for more information. 

“Joan and her salons and staff have made this issue a priority for decades, and we at A New Direction and Chicago Says No More are truly grateful,” McCarihan said. 

For information about AND’s services, visit www.anewdirectionbmp.org.