Beauty Salons: The newest weapon in the fight against domestic violence

Beauty Salons: The newest weapon in the fight against domestic violence

By Valerie Cavazos. CREATED Jul 24, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- Women have a tendency to tell their secrets to their stylists. The close -- often intimate -- bond between stylists and their clients has sparked a new program in Tucson to help fight domestic violence.

Stylist Amber Smelker sees and hears *things from her clients. "I have guests that come in and tell me things that nobody else knows," she said.

Intimate -- alarming -- details of their lives.

Rene Jaime has had similar conversations at her nail counter.  "A guest brought it to my attention that she was a little fearful and she was in a situation," she said.

In the past, they didn't know how to respond. "A year ago i probably would have shrugged it off or felt uncomfortable saying anything."

But that's changed since taking part in training sessions at Salon Nouveau with Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse. CEO Ed Mercurio-Sakwa told the stylists, "We started the program because as they open up to you you will know what to do with that information."

Sakwa says the idea isn't new. A more comprehensive program, Cut It Out, exists nationwide. He developed the program to provide salons with basic training on how to recognize warning signs. "We're not recommending they call 9-1-1 unless there's an active situation right there in the salon," he said.

The Pima County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is also behind the program. Barbara Lawall told KGUN9 that salon staff are taught how to stay within professional boundaries.

"We're not expecting them to counsel them.  In fact, we do not want them to do that. We want them to say there are places here like Emerge! Center for Domestic Violence and we're here to help you."

And stylists are taught how to avoid getting involved in potentially volatile situations.

Cavazos asked Smelker, "Do you worry about *your safety?"
He answered, "My safety? Not at all. I can see how it can get tricky which is why the Emerge training is good so you don't cross those lines and you don't put yourself in danger." Or the victim in danger.

The program organizers say the point of the training is not to turn stylists into law enforcement officials, but only to teach them how help. Tucson Police Department's Domestic Violence Unit told KGUN9 that it's onfident in the program.

Emerge said it's goal is to provide training in all Tucson salons.