'Salons may be the only safe space for some women'

Hundreds of hair and beauty salons in Donegal have partnered with Women’s Aid to provide domestic abuse support resources to their customers.

Salons will soon be displaying stickers on mirrors containing QR codes that will direct customers to the 24-hour National Freephone Helpline and Women’s Aid website.

Staff will also be educated on how to recognise the signs of abuse, how to respond in a supportive way and how to signpost customers to Women’s Aid.

The new partnership between Women’s Aid and the Hair and Beauty Industry Confederation (HABIC) aims to build on the trust between hairdressers and their clients.

This includes 380 member salons in Donegal, involving 929 staff members across the county.

Paul Sharp Photographer.

The campaign will promote a greater understanding and knowledge of domestic violence and abuse among hair and beauty professionals, and to create awareness of the prevalence of domestic abuse and support pathways that are available.

One in four women in Ireland in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner, according to EU research.

From this week, HABIC member salons will receive packs containing resource materials to support and educate teams and clients, including mirror stickers and posters outlining the ten common signs of domestic abuse. Information will also be sent for display in staff areas, to support salon employees that may be victims of abuse, as an estimated 88.9% of professionals working in hair and beauty are female.

Margaret O’Rourke Doherty, CEO of HABIC added: “The relationship between clients and HABIC hairdressers and beauticians is one that is developed over time and is built on trust.

“From engagement with Women’s Aid, we understand that salons may be the only safe space for some women, away from an abusive behavior. Over the coming period, we will focus on supporting our members and to give staff confidence and resources to know how to respond when someone does confide in them. With a largely female workforce, we also want to ensure our members feel supported at work and can access the necessary supports if they need to. We look forward to working with the team at Women’s Aid going forward to listen to women, support and believe them.”

In 2020, 29,717 contacts were made with Women’s Aid’s frontline services, during which 24,893 disclosures of domestic abuse against women including coercive control were made. These statistics represent a 43% increase in the numbers of women reaching out to Women’s Aid for support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 www.womensaid.ie