Susanne Shepherd Post, stylist and Shine Salon owner, has a heart for Nashville’s women — specifically, those who are victims of domestic abuse. Susanne was a victim herself, so when she heard about an initiative in Illinois that provides training for hair stylists to recognize the signs of domestic abuse and provide tools to the victims, she couldn’t get it off her mind.
Now, she has teamed up with the YWCA to create Shear Haven, Nashville and Middle Tennessee’s initiative to train and educate stylists about the signs of domestic abuse. At first mention, the two – domestic violence and hair stylists – might seem unrelated, but Susanne explains how it works. Stylists spend consistent, uninterrupted time with their clients regularly. During these appointments, often lasting hours, intimate relationships develop. Women and their stylists become friends over time, sharing personal stories, anecdotes and life updates as they happen.
When women are abused, they often cut ties with friends or family or find themselves isolated. That isolation can leave them without a solid support system that could help them, and it also affects their perspective. Stylists are in a unique position because their relationship generally remains consistent. In addition to noting any physical signs of abuse, stylists learn to look for signs of overbearing partners, like driving clients to and from their appointments, or anxiety-ridden comments about spending more than allowed or too much time away from their partner. They are also taught to be intuitive — trusting their gut when something doesn’t feel right, as we all can and should do.
Susanne says, “You wouldn’t believe how many times I hear a client say, ‘I can’t believe I just told you that!’ We have such an intimate relationship with our clients and can be such good listeners, and we can give people the recognition that what they are saying is valid.” Shear Haven trains stylists to pick up on cues – verbal, non-verbal and physical – that their client may be in danger at home. The stylists are then taught how to handle a conversation with the client about their safety.
From there, Shear Haven provides the information a stylist needs to effectively and appropriately approach their client. While they aren’t trained to advise a client what to do, they can point them in the right direction, offering the resources they need to get them safe.
With a staggering 40% of Nashville women experiencing some form of domestic abuse (including intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner rape and/or intimate partner stalking), the likelihood that stylists encounter women in danger is quite high. In fact, Susanne shares that almost all stylists in the training have a lightbulb moment where they recognize that they themselves have been in an abusive relationship or realize that a friend or client is in an abusive situation. Sadly, Susanne shares, “I’ve had several phone calls from stylists who had not yet made it to the training and lost a client. They tell me that they had seen the signs but didn’t know how to respond or questioned themselves.”
Shear Haven wants to prevent that from ever happening again. Training sessions happen periodically across Nashville. Salons can elect to host them for their stylists or attend the training at other local salons, all free of charge. The YWCA trainer, Marissa Miciotto, provides training on domestic abuse response to anyone interested, but this curriculum has been tweaked to apply specifically to those who work at spas or hair or nail salons. To date, approximately 100 stylists have been trained.
Sharon Roberson, the YWCA president and CEO, shares, “We actually would like for this to be included in mandatory continuing education for a stylist. We’re looking forward to meeting with legislators to make that happen!” Such is the case in Illinois, where domestic abuse detection training is required for a license. To further advocate for the women of Tennessee, the YWCA and Susanne want to push this law into place.
Beyond preventing and detecting domestic abuse, Susanne shares, “Part of my passion about this is not just the safety element, but taking away the stigma of domestic violence. People have so many misconceptions about what it looks like and who it affects. Part of the training is clearing up the myths that people have around domestic violence. We want to take away that stigma and that hesitancy to talk about it.” Just one year and eight months in, Shear Haven and its team members are making Nashville a safer place for women and, day-by-day, eliminating the stigma around domestic abuse. And that’s something to be proud of.
Susanne, Sharon, Marissa and everyone at the YWCA, we applaud all that you are doing to make Nashville a better place. If you are interested in hosting or attending a Shear Haven training, email Marissa Miciotto at [email protected]. The YWCA Domestic Violence Crisis & Support Helpline is 1 (800) 334-4628.
All photos by Josh Hailey of Hailey Media.
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