Hairdressers are being trained to spot signs of domestic abuse

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Norfolk County Council have launched an initiative to help hairdressers spot domestic abuse signs. [Photo: Getty]

A number of hairdressers are being trained to identify signs of domestic abuse from their clients.

The initiative, from Norfolk County Council, follows the tragic death of Norwich-based Kerri McAuley, 32, at the hands of her boyfriend in January 2017.

Joe Storey, McAuley’s boyfriend, attacked her and broke every bone in her face. She later died from her injuries.

Hairdresser Annie Reilly, who did McAuley’s hair, has spoken of her guilt for not going to the authorities after the victim confided in her.

“She turned around and said to me, ‘I know he’s going to kill me’. They were words I never thought I’d hear any of my clients say,” she told the BBC‘s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ programme.

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“When I opened the door she just looked at me and she collapsed into my arms, sobbing. I comforted her, cuddled her.”

“Should I have phoned the police? Yes, of course I should have done – but I didn’t know they were words that were meant. I just thought it was a statement, a figure of speech.”

Norfolk County Council have since began a training series for hairdressers and beauticians, including holding a conference for 250 participants earlier this month, on how to spot signs of domestic abuse.

“If you’re doing somebody’s nails and you can see some are being broken off, it’s about being curious, asking those questions,” a speaker told the audience, according to the BBC.

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The initiative is part of a new campaign called ‘Things Need To Change’ from the Norfolk Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Board (DASVB).The DASVB have also created a series of six videos to spread awareness about domestic abuse and the forms it takes.

Christen Williams, Domestic Abuse Change Coordinator at Norfolk County Council, told Yahoo UK: “Visiting hairdressers or beauty therapists gives many people a unique opportunity to converse and open up with somebody outside their social circle.

“People in these positions have a role in supporting their clients with a range of issues, including domestic abuse. It is vital that they are supported in recognising signs of domestic abuse, and knowing how to approach it.”

“The initiative was developed after Kerri McAuley was murdered. Her hairdresser was aware of the abuse she encountered and highlighted that many of her clients disclose abuse to her. She felt that it was necessary for hairdressers to be trained in this issue and know best how to support their clients.

“Professionals in the beauty industry are in a unique position to build a special relationship with their clients. They spend a large amount of time with them, often in a quiet and private space, and have in-depth conversations about all sorts of issues. The relationship becomes trusting but is unique because their hairdresser is outside their social circle.

“The hairdressers on the session were trained to spot the signs of domestic abuse (particularly the more subtle elements of coercion and control). We then provided advice on how to support them, what to say, what to avoid saying, and what other support is available locally and nationally. Hopefully this will enable hairdressers to support their clients, and provide them with options where possible.”

Asked about future initiatives, Williams said the council are looking into a future event. Attendees of the last one have also been asked to put up posters in their salons.

“We have just sent out a feedback survey to evaluate the event, and ascertain whether another event would be beneficial in the future,” says Williams.

For now, those who have come to the training have been encouraged to be curious, and challenge any abusive behaviour (in a sensitive manner). We have asked them put posters and leaflets in their salons outlining domestic abuse support services.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can visit the National Domestic Violence Helpline online or call their 24 hour freephone service on 0808 2000 247.