Mass. beauticians taught to spot domestic violence

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 2, 2014 at 9:46 am •  Published: February 2, 2014
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MEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — Massage therapist Marriam Donovan says she grew up watching her stepfather beat her mother, so she's familiar with domestic violence. Now she's being asked to look for similar abuse among her clients.

Donovan and hundreds of other women have received training under a program aimed at reaching victims of domestic violence through their hairstylists, skin care specialists, makeup artists and other salon professionals.

Donovan was among 80 students at the Elizabeth Grady School of Esthetics and Massage Therapy in Medford who participated in a recent session in the "Cut It Out" program run by the office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan. The program is designed to teach beauty professionals to identify signs of abuse and to refer clients to local battered women's shelters and other community service providers.

"If I had to help somebody going through this, I think I would do a good job because I've been through it," said Donovan, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"I know the signs," she said. "I do know how to approach someone without them feeling like they're being judged."

Ryan said "Cut It Out," a program first started in Birmingham, Ala., in 2002, relies on the warm relationships women often have with their beauticians to encourage victims of domestic violence to seek help.

"We're not asking them to become deputies or police. It's really about helping get information into the hands (of victims)," Ryan said.

Ryan started bringing the program to vocational schools in 2009 and then added private salons and beauty schools. Over the last five years, more than 900 people have been trained under the program, she said.

Ryan told the Elizabeth Grady students that because of the personal nature of their work, beauticians are in a unique position to spot signs of violence that many people wouldn't notice, including bumps or scars on the scalp, missing or damaged hair, red marks or bruising on the neck, as well as missed appointments, nervousness or anxiety. They were advised to be supportive and nonjudgmental and to gently refer the woman to brochures or cards in the salon containing information about local groups that can help.

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