July | August 2017


 

 

 

 

 

 

Illinois Implements Innovative Approach to Helping Abuse Victims

By Shawntaye Hopkins, CSG communications associate, and Jackie Thompson, CSG communications intern
An Illinois law that went into effect at the start of 2017 establishes an innovative approach to identifying domestic violence. The law, which was sponsored by Illinois state Rep. Fran Hurley of Chicago, provides salon professionals with domestic violence and sexual assault awareness training through the classes required to renew professional licenses.
The law requires cosmetologists to take one hour of domestic violence awareness training within their already mandatory 14 hours of continued education, which is required every two years to renew their licenses.
“There’s no extra burden,” Hurley said. “There weren’t any unnecessary additions to their classes.”
Hurley said the idea for the bill, which Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed at the end of 2016, originated at a meeting with representatives from Chicago Says No More, an organization dedicated to helping end domestic violence and sexual assault across Illinois.
“We met with them to talk about doing a resolution for the city of Chicago,” Hurley said. “So, in that meeting, we thought it would be a grand idea to incorporate domestic violence awareness training into cosmetology.”
Licensed beauty professionals were chosen because of the relationship they often build with their clients. Some clients build a relationship with their hairdressers over several decades, Hurley said.
“They hear the good things and the bad things,” she said. “They’re like a psychiatrist of sorts.”
Hurley said she had heard about the need for a law like the bill she sponsored from beauty professionals in her area. One hairdresser placed business cards for a domestic violence shelter in her salon bathrooms and was shocked at how many times the business cards had to be replaced.
“There’s a need out there for information,” Hurley said.
Hurley stressed that it is not mandatory for cosmetologists to report incidents under the new law.
“There’s no liability,” she said. “There’s no pressure to do anything. If you want to help somebody, then you have the knowledge and resources to help.”
So far, at least 11 other states have introduced legislation similar to Hurley’s House Bill 4264, including Colorado, Georgia and Maryland. Although no bills are identical to the Illinois bill, they all aim to train groups of cosmetologists on how to recognize domestic and sexual violence.
Several of the bills were brought to the attention of lawmakers by outside organizations that fight against domestic abuse. In March, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill that, like Illinois, requires cosmetology students to complete one hour of domestic violence awareness training.
Arkansas state Rep. Charlene Fite, the bill’s sponsor, said she was grateful to Jajuan Archer of Women’s Own Worth, or WOW, of Little Rock who brought the issue to her attention.
“We believe that every individual who becomes aware of the signs of domestic violence and is able to offer a helpful brochure or a phone number where the victim can reach out for help makes Arkansas a better state,” Fite said.
However, not everyone views the new laws the same way as Fite and Hurley. Though the new Illinois law has seen support from all over the nation, Hurley said there were some skeptics in the beginning who came around after further conversation about the bill.  
“After having a reasonable discussion with anybody, and it’s not because of my power of persuasion,” Hurley joked, “the bill just makes sense.”
Hurley had the help of Illinois state Sen. Bill Cunningham, also of Chicago, in getting the bill through both chambers of the Legislature.
“I was honored to be a part of the process in the House,” Hurley said. “You never know the impact you have on something, but I do believe it will help. I got into this job to help people.”
As for what she ultimately hopes to achieve with this law, Hurley said: “[Domestic violence] is a cycle, it is a continuous cycle. So if we can stop it somewhere, so that somebody has a chance … if we can help people avoid domestic violence, then it’s a win. Whether that’s one person or thousands of people, it’s a win.”