Alvarez voices support of domestic violence training for hair stylists

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Hair stylists could soon be on the front lines of fighting against abuse.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez wants the Chicago City Council to back pending state legislation requiring salon workers to be trained to spot domestic violence and physical abuse.

“I feel like they are pretty honest, sometimes I've been surprised how honest. We definitely fill the spot of therapist on many, many days,” said Dawn Bublitz, owner of Fringe salon in Wicker Park.

She says in her 30 years of experience that she’s never spotted signs of abuse, but is all for extra training.

House Bill 4264 would make the training part of every salon employees renewal license process. It would teach them how to spot signs of abuse and how to get the victims help.

“There certainly is community in being at the same salon all the time, walking in and knowing who the faces are going to be,” said Bublitz’s client Lynn Bohlman.

She’s been coming to Bublitz for the past 15 years and admits that it's easy to talk to your stylist about almost anything. In fact, experts say women are more likely to open up to their stylists, who may also see physical marks others may not notice.

"Someone is coming into your bubble and touching you, so you are going to warm up to them, it's like a hug," said Bohlman.

Fringe stylist Stephanie Byxbe says she's heard of all kinds of training, including how to spot sex trafficking.

"If someone is coming in and they want a full on change of their hair, just to identify like what's going on, how to ask some questions," said Byxbe.

None of these stylists say they have seen the signs, but are more than happy to learn how to look for them.

“I think it would be good and beneficial for empowering women to make sure that as people we are listening to what other people need," said Byxbe.

Lawmakers are still discussing this bill, but if passed, it would make sure not to hold any salon worker or the business liable for their involvement in a domestic abuse case.

Alvarez and domestic violence advocates spoke at a City Council committee hearing Monday and were met with much acceptance and questions from the committee members as to how a program like this could work.

Here's exactly how the bill would work: If passed, when going through the license renewal process, stylists could go through a one hour awareness program that would help them identify signs of abuse. It could also provide them with the tools to get victims help, such as places to go and who to call.

The legislation received a warm reception from the committee. The full city council is expected to hold a vote on the matter as early as Wednesday.