Northern Ireland

Women's Aid: Hairdressers tackle domestic violence

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Media captionDomestic violence victims find refuge in salons

The relationship between a client and their hairdresser is built on trust, and for some people the salon could be the only safe space in their lives.

That's the thinking behind a Women's Aid scheme called 'Safe Place'.

Opus One hair salon in Ballymena, County Antrim, is the latest business to join the scheme.

The women who work in the salon are looking out for signs that their clients might be victims of domestic violence.

They are equipped with the information someone might need to contact the police or Women's Aid and can also offer a safe place from which to make the call.

"Basically it is what it says - it's a safe place," Fran O'Boyle, from Women's aid told BBC News NI.

"So there's a safe place logo - a safe place sticker - and that is placed in the organisation's window for people to come up and down the street and recognise there is zero tolerance to domestic violence.

Fran O'Boyle from Women's Aid hopes the scheme will be successful

Image caption Fran O'Boyle from Women's Aid hopes the scheme will be successful

"We recently had a woman who came into Women's Aid and disclosed she had been in the hairdresser when she chose to tell her story.

"Her hairdresser supported her by giving her the phone and allowing her to call the office to get support."

  • Between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018, there were more than 31,000 incidents of domestic violence reported in Northern Ireland.
  • Police in Northern Ireland respond to a report of domestic violence every 17 minutes.
  • Police say one in four women and one in seven men are affected by domestic violence in their lifetime.

Claire Hannan, the manager of Opus One salon, said: "Throughout my career I have realised there have been a few clients who have left my salon and I have suspected that they are maybe in an abusive relationship.

"I didn't know what to say or how to approach them, so I just left it.

"We have had men come in with their wives and be very much into what they want their wife to get, not necessarily what their wife wants.

"We have had husbands call up the salon afterwards and be abusive to staff.

"I think hairdressing is built on trust so sometimes you find that you hear things that maybe nobody else hears."

Image caption Claire Hannan believes she has had customers in the past who have suffered domestic abuse

The salon now has Safe Place cards at the reception desk with information about where to get help.

They also keep some in the bathroom where people can access them privately.

PSNI Ch Insp Michael Simpson said: "This is a great awareness-raising tool.

"It allows victims the opportunity to tell their story in a place that they feel safe, I understand that police stations are not the most inviting of places at times.

"It is so simple and it is kept simple for that very reason.

"Our stats would show that one in four women and one in seven men are the victims of domestic violence.

"Everybody will know someone who has been a victim."

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