The hair salon is more than just a place for a new look.
As anybody who has spent the better part of an hour - or afternoon - in a stylist's chair knows, it's also a place to chat about life.
"The main reason why clients come to a hair stylist is because they trust us, and they tell us a lot of the personal things they're going through," Lorena Martinez, owner of the Colour Bar Salon in Midtown said.
That intimate disclosure is the idea behind a bill that Gov. Brown signed into law on Wednesday. The law, which goes into effect in July of 2018, requires the inclusion of a domestic violence awareness course in hair and beauty schools.
On its face, Martinez said, the new law sounds like a good thing.
"It would be nice to recognize signs and maybe be able to provide support and maybe just even refer them to someone," she said, "but I definitely wouldn't feel having to report, if someone was to tell me something they're going through."
The law doesn't make salon professionals mandated reporters.
That's for the best, according to Julie Bornhoeft, who works at WEAVE, Sacramento County's primary provider of services to victims of domestic violence.
"(The training) is not asking a stylist to become an expert on domestic violence. It's asking them to be that friend they are for their clients and to let them know that there's support," she said.
For several years now, WEAVE has offered training to salon professionals, to help stylists identify signs of abuse - like the training that is required with this law.
"It's listening for what this person may share: excessively controlling partner, maybe someone that's getting repeated texts or phone calls while they're at the appointment, someone making sure they're where they say they're going to be," Bornhoeft said. "They may talk about the person escalating, that they're frightened, that they threaten them."
Martinez said she cares for her clients but she wouldn't want to overstep a personal line.
"They might even say, like, 'Who are you to bring this up?'" she worried. "It's very fine because, technically, we're doing a business transaction. It just happens to be that it's a personal service business transaction."
ABC10 asked Bornhoeft for an appropriate question stylists can ask if they feel their clients are describing an abusive relationship.
"Really, asking someone, 'Do you feel safe?' is the best question to ask. It's a very basic," she said.
"That would be a very direct question that I wouldn't feel comfortable, because they're here for a personal service," Martinez said, when ABC10 relayed that suggestion from WEAVE. "Also, we don't work in a private room, so there's people around them, and although they might feel comfortable sharing it with me, they might not feel comfortable admitting it to clients who might be around them, getting their hair done."
But overall, she said, learning what to listen for and how to respond would be helpful.
"We always say, 'If your gut says something's not right, trust it,' because it most likely is, especially for stylists that have had an ongoing relationship with a client," Bornhoeft said. "It's better to say, 'I'm worried about you, I care about you, and if you need help, here's to get it,' than to not say something and always wonder if you should have."
Martinez said she can recall conversations with clients where she has wondered about the safety of their domestic relationship.
"Again, I never brought up the conversation because I felt it wasn't my place because it was very personal," she said. "How do you even bring it up? That is the difficult part."
The law also facilitates the creation of domestic abuse awareness materials to make available to already-practicing stylists and beauticians. Martinez said she thinks established professionals would benefit from the training as well as students working toward their license, for whom the course would be required.
If you have concerns about your relationship and need help, the WEAVE crisis hotline is 916-920-2952.
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