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A female hairdresser styles the hair of a woman in a salon.

Salon professionals learn about domestic violence

An RCMP officer in Yorkton, Sask., organized a workshop to help estheticians spot the warning signs of domestic violence in their clients — and start a conversation. Credit: Shutterstock


Salon professionals see a side of us few others may see, putting them in a position to spot the signs of domestic violence.

That's why RCMP Sgt. Jennifer Smith helped organize a Cut It Out workshop last fall outlining domestic violence warning signs and support tools to more than 40 hair stylists, nail designers and massage therapists. What they learned will be put to use as salons reopen across the country with COVID-19 precautions in place.

The workshop explained how to spot signs of domestic violence, how to start a conversation if there's a concern, and what support programs and resources are available for victims.

"They're a group with a lot of one-on-one contact with their clients in an atmosphere where their clients are relaxed," says Smith, who works at the RCMP's Yorkton detachment in Saskatchewan.

For the audience, there was a lot to learn.

"They have clients who open up to them and they're not always sure what to do," says Smith. "They felt that we gave them valuable information."

In 2017, Statistics Canada reported Saskatchewan as the province with the highest rate of domestic violence at 682 victims per 100,000 people.

Parkland Victim Services and community groups such as the Society for the Involvement of Good Neighbours (SIGN), Shelwin House and Yorkton Tribal Council helped organize the event.

Nicole Prince, a sexual assault program facilitator and outreach community educator with SIGN, says education is one of the first steps to preventing violence.

"Education allows us to challenge biases. It takes away victim blaming so people feel safer and come forward to seek help," she says.

Similar Cut It Out workshops have been organized across North America.

"The ultimate goal is to empower people in our community so they can help others in need," says Prince. "The reality is, domestic violence and sexual violence isn't something happening to someone else or in another community."

Last October, two dozen Saskatchewan RCMP officers received specialized domestic violence training covering how to improve victim support and better respond to and investigate the cases.

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