A new law took effect on January 1 that will require cosmetologists to learn about the signs of domestic violence, in hopes that some will recognize those signs in their clients.

SB 216, passed in July, mandates that an applicant for a cosmetology license “successfully complete[s] up to one (1) hour of online or in-person training, at no cost to the applicant, by a nonprofit anti-domestic violence organization recognized by the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault on domestic violence that focuses on how to recognize the signs of domestic violence, how to respond to these signs, and how to refer a client to resources for victims of domestic violence.”

The program will fall under the oversight of the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance and the state’s Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners

“Tennessee’s beauty professionals are caring, compassionate individuals who are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all their customers, but may not know how to respond when confronted with domestic violence,” the board’s Executive Director Roxana Gumucio said when the bill was passed.

The premise behind the law is that victims of domestic violence are more likely to share their experiences with people they know than with authorities.

“Most domestic violence victims will not report abuse to law enforcement, but they will tell someone with whom they have a long-standing relationship, such as a cosmetologist or barber,” Gumucio said. “Tennessee beauty professionals have a unique position to help identify domestic violence and assist victims.”

Illinois and Arkansas already have similar laws on the books.

State Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin) and state Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) cosponsored the bill.

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed that not everyone is safer at home. I’m proud to have sponsored this legislation and equally proud of the vast majority of my colleagues for recognizing the crisis of domestic violence and acting to make positive change in our laws,” Whitson said when the law was passed. “While we had to wait a full year before we could get this measure passed, we have a much better and stronger law because of the pandemic.”

A study published in the American Behavioral Journal of Emergency Medicine said that rates of domestic violence jumped 25 to 33 percent worldwide in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the year during which lockdowns were most prominent.

“This cursory analysis illustrates that stay-at-home orders may create a worst-case scenario for individuals suffering from DV and demonstrates a need for further research,” the study said. “With the apparent rise in DV reports, there is a need for more current and standardized modalities of reporting actionable DV data.”

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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Hair Stylist” by Unique koncept. CC BY-SA 4.0.