A new initiative from Women’s Aid is taking steps to help tackle domestic violence with the help of hairdressers.
People often joke that a hairdresser is better than a therapist. They can act as the best impartial listeners to our worries, and they can be privy to some of the most seismic changes in our lives – from new jobs to new houses, children to grandchildren.
The relationship between a hairdresser and their client is one which is built on trust and an unspoken rule of confidentiality.
But for some women, the hair salon might be the only safe place they have.
Such is the thinking behind a new scheme rolled out by Women’s Aid in Northern Ireland. Called ‘Safe Place’, the new initiative provides hairdressers and salon staff with information and advice should one of their clients confide that they are a victim of domestic violence.
“Basically it is what it says – it’s a safe place,” Fran O’Boyle, a representative of the women’s charity told BBC News Northern Ireland. “We recently had a woman who came into Women’s Aid and disclosed she had been in the hairdresser when she chose to tell her story.
“Her hairdresser supported her by giving her the phone and allowing her to call the office to get support,” she said.
A safe place sticker is placed in the participating organisation’s window “for people to come up and down the street and recognise there is zero tolerance to domestic violence,” Ms. O’Boyle told the BBC.
Northern Ireland’s new scheme is just one part of the ‘Change That Lasts’ approach that the charity has pledged to deliver across the UK.
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Part of this is the ‘Change That Lasts Ask Me’ project which, similar to “Safe Place”, provides training to people within the community – such as hairdressers, gym instructors and baristas – that equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to create a safe space in their community for survivors to speak up on domestic abuse.
According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, an estimated 1.2 million women experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2017. The Ask Me project is now being rolled out by Women’s Aid in 22 different sites UK-wide.