Illinois looks to salon workers to help spot domestic violence

ILLINOIS-- In Illinois, lawmakers have proposed a new approach to preventing domestic violence. They are looking to the beauty profession to help spot ugly situations at home. Some believe training salon workers could help save lives.

Women go to the salon for a new look, but can end up spilling secrets about struggles at home. New York stylist Kerri Towers has heard it all at the salon.

"It can be very intimate. Once you get to know someone and they keep coming back to you, they trust you," she said.

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New York stylist Kerri Towers. CBS News

It's that kind of openness that has Illinois lawmakers looking to require a mandatory hour of training for nail technicians and hairdressers to help spot signs of abuse when renewing their license every two years. This would be the first law of its kind in the country.

Towers agrees that training specifically for domestic violence might actually be very helpful.

"I do not know what to spot so training would be a great thing," she said.

National programs like the Professional Beauty Association's "Cut It Out," train stylists to recognize abuse and refer victims to helpful resources. Results can be hard to track.

Safe Horizon is the largest victim services agency in the nation. CEO of Safe Horizon, Ariel Zwang, said abused women are often isolated from friends and family, so they are more likely to open up to a cosmetologist.

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"There's something about that salon technician or hair stylist that makes them feel free to talk but not be judged," she said.

Nationwide, more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines. But the Department of Justice estimates 50 percent of cases go unreported.

"With one in four American women experiencing domestic violence, there are going to be women in every salon, every day, who could benefit from a referral to a domestic violence service provider," said Zwang.

If the law passes in Illinois, salon employees would not be blamed for failing to intervene in a domestic violence situation. Safe Horizon pointed out there are resources for victims in every state and online.