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CBS Evening News with Katie Couric ( Feb. 24, 2008)

Cutting Hair And Fighting Domestic Abuse

Beauty Stylists Learn To Spot That Clues To Save Their Clients From Violence At Home


Video from CBS Website

(CBS)  According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, three women in the U.S. are murdered by their husbands or boyfriend every day.

CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano reports about some soldiers in the ground war against domestic violence that promise to watch your back and make you beautiful at the same time, with a blow dryer in one hand and a phone number in the other.

The film "Steel Magnolias" reveals a universal truth. There are no secrets in a beauty parlor.

The clubby combination of intimacy and support in the local salon gave New York City Children's Services' Ingrid Dominguez the idea to deal with a serious problem: domestic violence.

"They know that they can talk about everything and anything," Dominguez told Solorzano, "and that it's not gonna come out of the salon."

Dominguez developed a program to train salon operators to spot and help victims of abuse.

"Since they're talking about it," she said, "let's give them the tools to help these women."

One training session in New York City's Washington Heights area is tailored to Hispanic women. The stylists are taught to look for clues like bruises and missing patches of hair, or signs of being controlled and isolated. They learn how to gently guide distressed women to seek help

"A woman is here with a black eye, or a bruise," Dominguez suggests as an example, "however, she is not ready to take that step. What we are encouraging from the salon operator, is just to provide them with the information, 'think about it, there's help'."

Trained operators can provide a contact to help with housing relocation, childcare support and medical insurance. But without guidance from a trusted source, most victims are too afraid to ask for help.

Solorzano reports that salon employees in Washington Heights know domestic violence. A woman who worked at one salon walked outside with her boyfriend and he stabbed her to death in the middle of the street, right in front of her coworkers.

Caridad Morfe owns the salon where the tragedy occurred. Afterwards, she requested the training.

"If she had talked and we knew about this program," Morfe told Solorzano in Spanish, "then maybe she would still be alive."

Solorzano asked Morfe if she thinks about the issue a lot.

"Yes," she answered, "because I am a woman and I have a daughter."

Domestic violence is a nationwide problem affecting 1 point 3 million victims each year, roughly 90% of them women.

There are now programs at hair salons in all 50 states. "Cut It Out" is one that began in Birmingham, Alabama. It has trained 25,000 operators.

"This idea can be replicated anywhere," Dominguez said, "and they'll embrace it, as long as you tell them what to look for and where to refer these women."

Sometimes a haircut, and a chat, can save your life.

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