DiZoglio Bill Would Expand Domestic Violence Training

From left to right, State Representative Juana Matias (D-Lawrence), YWCA of Greater Lawrence Coordinator of Domestic Violence Prevention Mariel Batista, YWCA of Greater Lawrence Director of Community and Residential Services Arelis Huertas and State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).

From left to right, State Representative Juana Matias (D-Lawrence), YWCA of Greater Lawrence Coordinator of Domestic Violence Prevention Mariel Batista, YWCA of Greater Lawrence Director of Community and Residential Services Arelis Huertas and State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).

Under new legislation sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), beauty professionals, including hairdressers, barbers, cosmetologists, and nail technicians would receive training on domestic violence and sexual assault education as part of their job training.

Recently, Illinois became the first state in the nation to pass a law giving all licensed beauty professionals an hour-long training on how to spot domestic abuse. The training teaches them how to spot signs of abuse and suggest resources clients can access, such as nearby safe havens or numbers to call, while making sure to carry a judgement-free and caring demeanor.

Last week, DiZoglio, who modeled her legislation, House Bill 3465, after the Illinois bill, testified in favor of the legislation during a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.

“In Massachusetts, nearly one in three women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner,” said DiZoglio. “Nearly half of women and a quarter of men in the Commonwealth have been subject to sexual assaults and, on an average day, domestic violence hotlines receive nearly 20,000 calls, or 15 calls per minute.”

During her testimony, the Representative noted the countless incidents of domestic violence that have been reported in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth.

“In the cities of Lawrence and Methuen, we have recently seen the devastating impacts of domestic violence,” said DiZoglio. “One instance in particular that set heads spinning in our region was the tragedy of Wanda Rosa, aged 29, brutally strangled in her home in front of her four-year-old boy. Shortly after her death, I began meeting more often with local advocates from the community to discuss how to address and hopefully prevent such horrific acts of domestic violence moving forward. Beauty parlors and barber shops are actually a hangout place for many patrons who spend hours socializing while receiving services. I came to realize how key hairdressers and beauty professionals can be in recognizing signs of domestic violence, such as bruises on the scalp under hair, which not all people can see. So often, abusers will strike their victims where most people can’t see the signs. This bill certainly isn’t the solution to every problem associated with domestic violence and sexual assault, but it is one more tool in the toolbox to stop the violence.”

DiZoglio’s legislation has the support of the YWCA of Greater Lawrence and other domestic violence advocacy groups in the Merrimack Valley.

“As an advocate and community activist who’s been working hard at promoting gender equity and social justice in the Greater Lawrence area for over two decades, I understand the important role that policy changes and legislations such as the one filed by Rep. DiZoglio have in combatting domestic and sexual assault,” said Vilma Martinez-Dominguez, Director of Social Justice Initiatives at the YWCA of Greater Lawrence. “Aestheticians, cosmetologists, barbers, manicurists, and other professionals in this trade often build trusting relationships with their clients so they are in a perfect position to provide critical support and resources to victims who may confide in them about the abuse they may be enduring. I am honored to have contributed information and language along with other Domestic and Sexual Assault advocates from other sister organizations.”

“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 issues and trust them in a way we don’t trust people we are close to,” said Sandy Almonte, co-founder of Delamano, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to domestic violence intervention and awareness programs in the Merrimack Valley. “It could be a barber a hairstylist or the mailman. The purpose of this bill is to train these non-traditional professionals in recognizing the signs of domestic violence and offer clients the resources they need to get help or report domestic violence to law enforcement themselves. Abusers may leave bruises or signs on a victim that most people cannot see. 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. A hairdresser or barber also has the ability to develop a relationship with a potential victim that others may not be able to develop. When potential victims come into a safe environment like a beauty salon, they tend to open up.”

“This is an important bill that takes a step forward in preventing and responding to sexual assault and domestic violence” said Isa M. Woldeguiorguis, Executive Director at The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc., a rape crisis center in Lowell. “In Lowell, we launched a barbershop initiative because we know that hairdressers and barbers are not only confidantes, they are role models and leaders in the community. If they are trained in how to notice sexual assault and domestic violence and how to respond or refer, not only will victims be safer potential perpetrators will see non-violent role models. This is also a culturally relevant approach and so we applaud Representative DiZoglio for championing this legislation in Massachusetts.”