The NY Times has a really interesting article about innovative anti-domestic violence programs that meet women abuse victims where they are:
The privileged, often therapeutic relationship between hairdressers and clients has long been the subject of magazine articles and movies. A growing movement in New York and across the nation tries to harness that bond to identify and prevent domestic violence, a pervasive problem that victims are often too ashamed to reveal to law enforcement or other public officials.
Ms. Vasquez, Ms. Castillo and Ms. Florentino are all stylists in Manhattan who have been trained (or are being trained) as part of a one-year-old program by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services in beauty salons in the Washington Heights area, where many cases of domestic abuse and neglect include violence that is not necessarily aimed at children.
The initiative joins similar efforts that have been sprouting across the nation; perhaps the best known, called Cut It Out and based in Chicago, has trained 40,000 salon workers in all 50 states to recognize signs of domestic abuse. In the past few months, the Cut It Out program was also adopted by the Empire Education Group, which has 87 cosmetology schools, and endorsed by the American Association of Cosmetology Schools, the trade organization representing another 800 schools.
[ . . .]
Kathy Ryan, chief of the Domestic Violence Unit of the New York Police Department, said that battered women were such a hard population to reach that “preventing even one death should be considered success.”
The police have tried doing outreach to victims by, among other things, setting up domestic violence-education tables at community events, only to find that no one wants to be seen near them. But the atmosphere is different in the safety of a beauty salon.
It may sound really stereotypical and obnoxious to our feminist sensibilities, the idea that beauty salons are the place to find and talk to women, but the fact is that the programs are reaching women who likely would not have otherwise been reached, and providing them with an important system of trained support.
Other writers like Brownfemipower have blogged about how the feminist movement tends to use college campuses as recruitment grounds rather than places like churches, day care centers, community centers, etc. and it’s not the way to go. I think that the same can also be extended to several of the feminist movement’s specific causes, like domestic violence. There are all kinds of women (and men) doing radical work in this area, as the article above points out, but I don’t think that we have jumped on board and helped the idea to catch on nearly as much as we need to.
We might be most comfortable on college campuses, at shelters and hotlines, and setting up tables at health fairs. But it doesn’t matter what we’re most comfortable with if the people we’re trying to reach aren’t comfortable. And not all of them are.
There is no one approach to helping women who are the victims of domestic violence. Ceratinly, all women aren’t going to be helped at hair salons any more than all women are going to be helped with a hotline number. But some will be helped by both. Some will be helped in churches, some will be helped in day care centers; women will be helped everywhere, if we’ll let them be. The point is finding where different women are most comfortable, most open, and helping them there, in all of those places. Or we’re just simply going to keep leaving a lot of women behind.