Cutting Out Spousal Abuse

When a woman is beaten, 85 percent of the time it is at the hand of a significant other, according to the Department of Justice. Understandably, victims are often afraid to talk about the abuse.

But, as The Early Show correspondent Melinda Murphy reports, there is a national program designed to make it easier for victims to open up and get the help they need.

The initiative program is called "Cut It Out" and the key to its success is building on women's tendencies to share everything at the beauty salon.

Melanie Caldwell and the woman who does her nails, Laura Love Brown, have become dear friends. "It's a bond you can't explain," explains Melanie.

"By the time you've done someone's nails or hair or either as an aesthetician, whatever the case may be for any length of time, it is a personal thing," says Laura.

When Laura first met Melanie, she seemed happy.

But then, Melanie says her husband began keeping her on a tight leash. "The only thing that I could do that he never gave me a hard time about was going to the nail salon. I cherished those appointments every two weeks. You just do not know. I cherished those appointments."

And Laura began to signs of physical abuse. "Bruising about the arms for the most part, like she had been, I would say, snatched up. I knew from talking to her that he liked to push her into walls a lot. So sometimes she'd have a bump on the head."

Melanie says her husband had started beating her. "He grabbed me around the throat, slung me up against the wall. He started shaking me and then that's the first time I went down the stairs."

She kept the abuse hidden from everyone — everyone but Laura.

Why didn't she confide in a friend rather than her nail technician? "Well, I mean, a lot of reasons. I just didn't want them to be disappointed in me. Same reason I didn't tell my parents."

At one point, Melanie says the violence escalated. "He grabbed me and drug me across the floor and I'm fighting. And he takes my head and he pushes my head in the couch. And I felt the gun go in the nape of my neck."

It was Laura's support that helped her finally leave.

It was stories like Melanie's that prompted Dianne Mooney to create "Cut It Out," a program designed to train salon professionals to recognize signs of domestic abuse. She says the salon is a safe environment for many women, who share their stories with their stylists.

"We teach them to listen. And to watch certain behaviors. Is someone watching over their shoulder? Is he constantly calling on the cell phone. Are there signs of physical abuse?" says Mooney.

Professionals are taught not to counsel the women, but rather refer them to a national hotline.

The program is being taught in beauty schools and through a training video.

"I don't think our culture understands the pervasiveness of this epidemic. And it's not just really their problem, it's our problem. It's our culture's problem," says Mooney.

It's a problem that many victims find difficult to talk about until just the right touch unlocks their terrible secret.

"She gave me the strength to stand up, to get my life back. I had to do it alone. But I didn't have to do it alone," says Melanie, who is doing well today and taking care of her son.

Meanwhile, Laura has made sure that all of the employees in the salon she owns have been trained in the "Cut It Out" program.
  • Daniel Schorn

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