August 17, 2022
We all have people in our lives that we don’t know very well, but when we see them, we talk to them about our problems and even trust them in a way we don’t trust people we are close to. It could be the bus driver, the mailman, someone who works in the same building with you, and so on.
These relationships are different for every person. For a lot of people, their hairdresser or barber holds this title. Well, Colorado has recognized the potential of this relationship and has decided to use it to fight domestic violence.
In late 2016, Illinois passed a bill that would require hairdressers, barbers, and similar professionals to take an hour-long course on domestic violence before obtaining or renewing their professional license.
Lawmakers believe that it was the first law of its kind. Certain professionals (like teachers) are required to report signs of domestic violence or child abuse, but the spotlight wasn’t put on hairdressers until Illinois did it last year.
The bill passed and went into effect at the beginning of 2017, making national headlines. It certainly caught the attention of Colorado lawmakers, who have introduced a similar measure.
HB17, or the “Barber and Cosmetologist Act,” was introduced into the House on February 6. The bill would, as in Illinois, require cosmetologists to complete training on domestic violence and sexual assault awareness. Without the training, hairdressers, barbers, and so on, would not be able to renew their license or continue practicing in the state.
So what exactly do lawmakers want salon professionals to do with this knowledge?
First off, if a client comes to the cosmetologist showing signs of domestic abuse, or even confided to the cosmetologist about abuse or assault at home, the professional would not be required to report the incident or the signs to law enforcement. Nor would they be liable if they failed to report domestic violence or sexual assault.
Rather than reporting abuse, lawmakers hope the training course gives cosmetologists the ability to recognize the signs and offer clients the resources they need to seek help or report the crime to law enforcement themselves.
Abusers may leave bruises or signs on a victim that most people cannot see at first glance: the arms, the neck, the back of the head, and so on. A salon professional not only sees this evidence up close and personal for an extended period of time, but also has the ability to develop a relationship with the potential victim. The idea is that HB17 will give cosmetologists the tools they need to possibly prevent domestic violence and lead their clients to safety.
Supporters of the bill appreciate its unique approach to fighting domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence are often afraid of reporting the crime to law enforcement, and validation from a trusted source like a hairdresser may be the push they need to get help.
Lydia Waligroski, the Public Policy Director for the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said, “For a salon professional to be able to say just those three words, ‘I believe you.’ Here are some people that can help, and here are some people that can give you more information about this. There’s a lot of power and support in that.”
Not all hairdressers support HB17, or the similar law that has taken effect in Illinois. When the law was still a bill in Illinois, hairdressers spoke out about the extra pressure that will be put on them. The training course certainly gives hairdressers and cosmetologists an extra responsibility that they may feel unqualified for or uncomfortable taking on.
Other hairdressers have wondered if the measures would intimidate clients and prevent them from confiding in hairdressers out of fear of reporting the crime. Additional factors, including Colorado’s tough restrictions on those who are simply arrested or charged with domestic violence, should also be considered.
What’s Next for HB 17?
The bill has made it through the initial introduction to the House. No one testified against the measure, but it still only passed 6-4. It has a long way to go before it moves through the legislature and becomes a state law, and there is still debate as to whether the measure will actually benefit victims of domestic violence.
While this measure is being debated, lawmakers will likely look to Illinois. However, they may not be able to gather much concrete evidence as to whether the law has worked or not since it is still so new.
What they do have available to examine right now in Colorado are plenty of laws regarding domestic violence procedures. As evidenced by HB 17, though, these laws are constantly changing and modifying, so it is important to keep yourself updated and get in contact with your representatives if you would like to see changes to our criminal justice system.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.