Have you ever had a client joke that you’re their therapist? I have. When I was a makeup artist clients would chat to me about dating, marriages, kids and friendships. They would also disclose the darker aspects of their lives. As a makeup artist in my early twenties, I heard stories of sexual violence, domestic violence and financial abuse. I was unsure how to manage these conversations and was left worried about my client’s welfare. I felt overwhelmed and powerless to assist them.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in six women and one in 16 men have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or previous partner. Based on these figures, chances are some of your clients are either coping with or recovering from, the impacts of family violence. Furthermore, perpetrators are often enmeshed in the social and familial networks of their victims. This means an individual suffering domestic abuse is more likely to disclose their story to a trusted person outside of their immediate network – somebody like a beauty therapist.

Eastern Domestic Violence Service (EDVOS), an organization that runs family violence training in Victoria for three years, are acknowledging that in many instances, personal services professionals are the first point of contact for individuals experiencing violence in the home. They are looking to address this issue and support salon workers who are being placed in the role of first-responder.

HaiR-3Rs website is helping salon workers respond to reports of domestic violence.
The HaiR-3Rs website where personal service professionals can take online training to help them respond to family violence.

In their second year, they released the HaiR-3Rs (Recognise, Respond, Refer) program, an educational initiative empowering those working in the personal services industry to recognise family violence, respond to disclosures of family violence and refer to specialist services.

The HaiR-3Rs (Recognise, Respond, Refer) acknowledges the unique relationship that beauty therapists have with their clients. EDVOS Chief Executive Officer Christine Mathieson said that with lockdowns and COVID-19, it has been increasingly difficult for women experiencing family violence to seek help outside the home. Often hairdressers, skin therapists and makeup artists may be the first person a woman opens up to about violence in the home. However, disclosures of family violence can take an emotional toll on salon workers, many of whom may feel unprepared and unsure of how to respond. Christine Mathieson said of the training: “With HaiR-3Rs, we are helping make salons safe spaces where women experiencing violence can receive an empathetic response and be passed information about support services.” Importantly, HaiR-3Rs takes the burden and responsibility away from the therapist. Mathieson says: “Rather than turning salon workers into counsellors, we are inviting them to play a role in the early intervention and prevention of violence.”

Their new website allows anyone in Australia working in hair, beauty and personal care services to book in for a three-hour online training session. It also features post-training information on specialist services and a directory where victim-survivors can locate their local HaiR-3Rs salon. The organisation has received endorsement by peak industry bodies including the Australian Hairdressing Council, ARA Hair and Beauty and Hair Stylists Australia.

Polly Tran, owner of Dear Sister Tattoo trained in responding in salon to reports of domestic violence.
Polly Tran, the owner of Dear Sister Cosmetic Tattoo Studio, says specialist training has made her more confident saying and doing the right thing when faced with stories of family violence.

Polly Tran, owner of Dear Sister Cosmetic Tattoo Studio took the training after a client disclosed their story of domestic violence.

“They revealed they were a survivor of family violence; their partner was the perpetrator. Although they are safe now they were clearly traumatised by years of horrific, insidious abuse. Their other family and friends had felt powerless to intervene.”

Polly said that she wanted to provide a “safe, non-judgemental space” where clients feel okay to be vulnerable. She says “listening and offering support is the very least we can do.”

She reached out to EDVOS to find out how she could help – they suggested the HaiR-3Rs training program. She explains that the training debunked commonly held myths about family violence and left her feeling more confident in knowing “what to say.” “Even if we are well-intentioned and want to help, there are a lot of things we may say that can actually do more harm than good. We all walked away with practical tips on “what to say” when facing a client who may be at risk. We also received tips on how to recognise potential signs of abuse, and how to refer clients to services that will provide professional help.”

She said that the training has removed the fear of disclosure for her. “Initially it can feel awkward when someone reveals a details ‘personal’ matter in the middle of an appointment, but lots of people feel very relaxed and safe around us salon professionals! How many times has a client dozed off asleep whilst you’ve done their hair? This is an honour! It takes so much courage to speak out if you are/were living in a state of constant fear and uncertainty. I feel grateful that my clients do feel safe enough to have a conversation about family violence.”

Now, Polly feels confident she can make a difference. “I only feel more confident to help because I have the knowledge about how to help. There are amazing services out there and I may be a conduit to further professional help for a persona at risk. Since the training, I don’t have to worry about ‘saying the wrong thing’ anymore or feel like I’m overstepping. Abuse is everyone’s issue. We have all seen the statistics in the news. Many have family, friends, or colleagues who are at risk. As service providers in the beauty community, our clients trust us. I really do believe my fellow colleagues in the beauty industry have the power to transform attitudes and potentially save a life.”

For more information visit: HaiR-3Rs

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